A Story of Real Success

The traditional folk costumes of the Hungarians living in Slovakia were exhibited on doll-models for the first time March 15th 1998 in Révkomárom (Komárno). The collection became bigger and bigger during the years and was shown in different regions of Slovakia, several places in Hungary, in Brünn (Brno)-Moravia and at the World Expo 2000 in Hannover. Let’s have a look at its story where it started from and where it got to from the notion till the realization. The premises go back in time more than 20 years. In a Hungarian weekly magazine entitled „Nő” which does not exist any more they appealed and encouraged its readers to collect and dress dolls into the traditional costumes of the regions in Slovakia where Hungarians live and show them to the public. Not too many dolls were prepared then the enthusiasm declined and nothing happened on. This silence later was broken by a small group of teachers led by Eszter Szobi Kerekes in Búcs. They decided to make a collection of dolls dressed into the folk costumes of the Hungarian regions. The concrete inspiration came from an international conference of nursery school teachers held in Székesfehérvár in 1996. There they could admire the collection of this kind from the Kézdivásárhely Museum. Coming home from this conference Eszter Szobi together with her colleagues started to urge collecting folk costumes. As the first step towards this work was a workshop where they lectured on the ethnic regions and their ways of clothing, the traditional costumes typical for different villages, village groups. One of the lecturers was Margit Méry ethnographer who as the only one Hungarian member of the Ethnographic Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences delt with exploration of the Hungarian regions in Slovakia and regularly publicated her researches. The other well known lecturer was Mária Jókai voluntary folklore researcher who was dealing with this topic in her region of the Zobor Mountain. The organizers wished to involve as many teachers as possible into this work while make the local women prepare the dresses and cloths because they knew the tradition the best. In the first exhibition -thank to the Cultural Institute of the Hungarian Embassy to Pozsony (Bratislava) – Slovakia – the collection-pieces reduced in size were shown on the dolls made by the Folkart Hungary Co-op. In this expo they exhibited the dolls collected before upon the request of the „Nő” magazine. After this first show the collection started a long bum and had a great success everywhere among the visitors. This success contributed to keep on the enthusiasm alive. Upon the inspiration of further shows step by step more and more dolls, more and more regions got into the collection. Today traditional costumes of 41 villages of 29 groups of 11 ethnographic regions are exhibited to the public. A special peculiarity of this collection that its imitated doll families let us see how the children were dressed not only the adults. And we can observe as well how they tied and carried the babies to the mothers’ body and how they dressed them in different regions. If we think of the expositions we have to think of Búcs village, too where Eszter Szobi, the Sole of this initiation, together with others established the Association for Culture and Tourism. It annually organizes conferences – „The Days of Manor-House Emese” on this topic. This program is a live touch among the teachers from South Slovakia, the women who prepared the dresses and cloths and others who somehow participated in this work of collection or shows. It rarely happens that a collection is shown or exhibited 150 times and hits all the records of its kind. This way we can say that the story of this collection is a Story of Real Success. This Success could be achieved by the hard work of Eszter Szobi but we have to remember and mention her late husband Kálmán Szobi as well because he was a big help in this work until his death in December 2004. They proved it together that one can work at any circumstances and with enough will we can get help for new initiations. What state institutions and professionals could not reach was done by enthusiastic non-professional amateurs. They created a great value and by the fact that it is a travelling show they reached their aim to show a slice of our culture in this case our traditional Hungarian folk costumes in the regions of Slovakia. We just do hope that the newest aim will also come true one day and this Collection will get its permanent place of exposition soon. Knowing Eszter Szobi and her grim determination we can be sure this aim will come true, too.