Belarus, Brest province
Pruzhany and Byarozava districts, Kabaki and Soshitsy villages
August 11-22, 2011
Principle Investigator: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
Our 2011 expedition to southwest Belarus reflected the lasting impact of a bloody and turbulent 20th century. Polish rule, Soviet rule, German invasion, massive wartime destruction and loss of life — their effects are visible today in the local singing tradition. For example, while we could find elderly, lifelong residents of the region, we could not find even two or three informants who had grown up in the same village, or who had any history of singing together. Singers who are now neighbors each have repertoires of songs they learned in childhood, but since they grew up in different villages, the repertoires do not overlap. This makes it difficult to sing together and to keep the songs alive. Thus the older songs we recorded were performed by individual singers, not by the groups of singers one would expect in this tradition.
On the other hand, traditional textile arts (weaving, embroidery, crocheting, knitting) are still widely practiced. It is not unusual to see hand-built floor looms in the homes of women over 60, and even among their daughters it is easy to find many enthusiastic needle workers.
Okh, Ja na Jana Kupalas’a
Oh, I bathed on Jana Kupala
and dried myself off in the forest.
A daughter asks her father,
Begs her dear father.
“Daddy, let me keep my freedom, [ie — let me remain single]
At least for one more year.
Let me keep my single brown braid. [ sign of maidenhood]
Grow, braid, down to my waist,
Fair face, like an apple.