Canadian Ethnic Studies, Pages 198-199. Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2, 2006.
Folk Furniture of Canada's
Doukhobors, Hutterites, Mennonites and Ukrainians.
John Fleming and Michael Rowan.
Press, 2004, 155 pp.,
bibliography, and index; $60.00 he.
appears to have made use of the latest in technological
to present beautiful pictures featuring traditional designs of
to the four ethnocultural communities studied. The result is one of the
exquisitely illustrated books I have encountered in recent years.
Folk Furniture is divided into six major sections, the first of which
discussion of utopian ideology and folk traditions. The authors readily
that the origins of the Doukhobors,
Hutterites, Mennonites, and Ukrainians ore
very different, but at one time they all shared a common fate under the
dictatorship of Russian tsars. All four groups were basically peasant
shared a love of the land, suffered economic hardship, and longed to
country where they were persecuted for their religious beliefs. All
made it to North America, the utopian dream,
communities are still easily identified. Not long after their arrival,
utopian ideology and craft traditions gave way to products of
and the principles of early capitalism.
The next four sections (chapters, actually) of the book describe and
the crafts of the four groups, beginning with the Doukhobors.
Originating in Russia,
7,500 Doukhobors migrated to Canada
in 1899 with the blessing of Count Leo Tolstoy and the Quaker
Clifford Sifton, Canada's
Minister of the Interior, made the arrangements. Featured themes of Doukhobor craftwork include their
houses, furniture, picture frames,
tables, cradles, spinning wheels, and even doors. The authors note that
arriving in Canada,
the Doukhobors appear to have transformed their crafts to less heavy
made less use of embellishments such as diamonds, pinwheels, and
The origin of Hutterites and Mennonites is similar, both having grown
the Anabaptist wing of the Protestant Reformation in Europe
in the early pail of the sixteenth century. During the late 1700s, they
migrated to Russia
to escape religious persecution, accepting the invitation of Catherine
Great. Eventually they made their way to the United
States, but some soon opted to go to Canada
to escape America's
military mindset. The first Mennonites immigrated to Canada
in 1874 while the Hutterites arrived in 191 S. Both groups flourished
Fleming and Rowan note that the kinds of furniture found in both
Hutterite communities tend to reflect the functional and general needs
community rather than the desires or eccentricities of the individual.
spent a century in Russia,
their crafts basically resembled those of the Doukhobors, their former communal
neighbors. Hutterite furniture is generally well constructed, and its
were always members of the local colony who tried hard to meet the
needs of the
community without giving any indication of personal "brand" on any of
the finished pieces. The displays presented by the authors in both the
Hutterite and Mennonite chapters are absolutely striking, both in
welt as in their choice of pieces illustrated.
Like the Doukhobors, the
Ukrainians originated on the same continent but sought
improved opportunities in Canada
beginning in 1991, when 17,000 of them migrated to Alberta
and Manitoba. Some later
moved to Saskatchewan.
pleased to find a familiar looking landscape in the Canadian west and
established themselves as successful farmers. Fleming and Rowan observe
the first houses erected by the Ukrainians resembled those they left
Similarly, their skilled craftsmanship traveled with them. The authors
a series of striking photographs of Ukrainian cradles, cupboards,
chests, benches shelves and icons, and even a carved wooden chandelier!
After the four major presentations, Fleming and Rowan offer a section
"Tradition, Adaptation and Cultural Identity" in which they emphasize
that folk furniture is usually tied to immediate, unmediated
function is primarily utilitarian. However, as the plates in this
illustrate, this concern for the immediate did not in any way restrict
abilities of the builders.
Normally when I review an exceptionally good book I urge readers to
appreciating its message. In this case, however, even though there is
learn about these four communities in this coffee table masterpiece, I
urging readers of this review to find the book and look at the pictures!
John W. Friesen <firstname.lastname@example.org
"Calgary writer, Education professor and minister"
Graduate Division of Educational Research
University of Calgary
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