Romania has a long and rich history and a colourful cultural tapestry that is not well known outside of the region, and these traditions are being kept alive at the small but impressive Nicolas Popa Ethnographic Museum in Tarpesti, Romania.
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Following a long line of artisans, Nicolai Popa was something of a modern day Renaissance man, and was at various points in his life a sculptor, an artist, a writer and a collector. He worked hard to create works off art that not only represented his family and community but also epitomised the culture of Romania in stone and wood. His masks – often representing characters in history or folklore – were used in local performances that helped teach and pass down the culture and traditions to the young children they were aimed at.
This passion for passing on the traditions of the past has led to this small ethnographic museum being one of the most important institutions of its kind in Romania.
Apart from the many pieces of art made by the eponymous artist himself, the museum also holds a number of fascinating archaeological and historical artifacts that give a glimpse into the hidden past of the region, a large art collection and even a small armoury from a more recent wartime past.
The Nicolas Popa Ethnographic museum wasn’t just a museum though, it was a working artisans workshop. To me, it was seeing that the physical skills of sculpture and art where being kept alive at the museum was one of the best and most fascinating parts of visiting this small museum. As much as I love museums in general, that took it from being a mere repository of artifacts to something infinitely more tangible.
Art and sculpture can be very unique. Done well, it can define an era and immortalise a culture. Preserving these art forms and the techniques used to make them can help preserve the culture itself, and this is something I really enjoyed seeing here.
Nicolas Popa’s legacy is more than his art or the museum itself. Romania is in a state of change at the moment, it is only just starting to open itself up to the wider world of tourism, and his legacy can ensure Romania’s past can be a strong part of its bright and promising future.
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