To Ploumisto Psomi
Dough Artifacts Workshop
- Traditional Cyprus plumed breads museum,
- Dough artifacts permanent exhibition,
- Traditional bakery tasting,
- Lectures, Seminars, Cultural events.
Visit the workshop, ramble around the museum
Familiarise yourself with one of the cornerstones of Cyprus culture and tradition
Experience the role and importance of bread in the local society
Hundreds of examples of ritual, festive and ornamental breads
9, Gregori Afxentiou street
3021, Limassol, Cyprus
DECORATED BREAD MUSEUM - ΤΟ ΠΛΟΥΜΙΣΤΟ ΨΩΜΙ
Visitors of the Decorated Bread Museum find out that bread is more than food. It has also a cultural perspective. They can learn about the history of the bread, its production cycle, ethnological and sociological characteristics and symbolism that decorated bread brings with it.
Dorita Voskaridou, the researcher, writer and the creator of the museum, prepared each replica bread in the museum. She is always at To Ploumisto Psomi to personally guide visitors through the exhibitions and to explain the symbolism of each bread decoration. Thanks to Mrs Voskaridou, visitors will be thrilled to discover the hidden meaning behind the recurring symbols that used to decorate traditional breads.
The museum stands under the management of non-profit organization Technodromio and it operates thanks to the support and donations of its visitors and sponsors.
At Ploumisto Psomi, visitors can view replicas of decorated breads intended as offerings in religious ceremonies – they can learn the histories of these breads and how they have been used across the centuries. The museum also features actual testimonies from people from various parts of the island, mainly elderly women, who have lived by these traditions and are eager and proud to pass them on to the next generation.
Museum operates daily Monday to Saturday from 09:00-12:30 and 16:00-19:00 except Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
Entrance if free and there is the option for attending various guide tours and watch audiovisual material for large or small groups ranging from 2-15 euro according to the programme.
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMES / WORKSHOPS
Museum education programs designed by specialists for schools and organized groups include monitoring of audiovisual material, tour and presentation space, experiential workshop and kneading bread decoration, fairytales and traditional hospitality with breakfast. They cover issues such as the cycle of bread, symbolism, social and folkloric dimension of bread, bread in art and literature.
Circles of sessions for adults covering the preparation of liturgical breads, festive breads, breads from the cycle of life etc.
WORKSHOPS FOR CHILDREN
The museum is a living space, open to the public and designed to accommodate children. During the afternoon creative workshop for children "Little Baker" including play-cooking, theatre games, storytelling, visual creations and the "Music Workshop" offered music kinetics programs for early childhood, music programs for pregnant and piano lessons for all ages.
At the Museum a shop is available that sells dough-made artefacts, replicas of the traditional decorated bread (non-edible) and other contemporary dough creations by Ms Voskaridou, giving the visitor the opportunity to support the museum and take a piece of Cyprus tradition back home or even offer a unique gift to family or friends.
The Museum runs a rich researching program continuously, cooperates with relevant museums and foundations abroad and participates in various cooperation programmes. The site operates as an art gallery, center of artistic events, it hosts food and wine tasting events and social events in an effort to stay alive, accessible and always open to the public.
The Museum houses the Centre for Letters and Arts Technodromio, the Storytelling School and occasionally other organizations that wish to use the space for their events.
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Decorated Bread Museum “To Ploumisto Psomi”
Μουσείο «Το Πλουμιστό Ψωμί»
Μουσείο «Το Πλουμιστό Ψωμί»
9, Grigori Afxentiou Street, 3021 Limassol
Tel: +357 99526772
Bread is the staple of life. Yet, as a foodstuff of historical and contemporary importance in many cultures in the West, as well as those in the region, bread has a significance beyond mere nutrition.
Many cultures look at bread as being significant in religious expression, and the different ways we look at it say a great deal about the way we look at our religious experiences. In the old Middle Eastern religions the importance of bread and grain is incorporated into religious beliefs and practices. As a religious symbol, bread speaks many tongues. The bread of the Christian mass, for example, combined with wine, celebrates communion with one another and with God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Decorative bread, and bread for special occasions, was always part of the traditional Cypriot table. As in other parts of the Mediterranean, decorative bread was baked for the different occasions in which the families gathered to celebrate the moments of rest or religious significance during the year.
Limassol-based researcher and ethnographer Dorita Voskaridou, is a woman who has spent many years recording and safeguarding the traditions of the villages of Cyprus. In her first book entitled “The Decorative Bread of Cyprus” Voskaridou has made a valuable record for posterity. The book was edited and illustrated by the well-known Cyprus photographer Vassos Stylianou and includes photographs, documents and personal testimonies of the bread making and decorating folk traditions of Cyprus villages.
Voskaridou describes customs and traditions from selected areas of the island, focusing on the “ploumista”, namely the decorated bread which, in addition to folkloric importance, reflects religious associations. She also reproduces personal testimonies given in the Cypriot dialect, recording the words spoken by rural women who are (or were) mistresses of their craft. The magnificence of the different types of bread is sensitively reproduced in the photography of Vassos Stylianou, who captures the very essence of their beauty.
Dorita Voskaridou studied dentistry and successfully worked in her profession, but since 1995 has taken personal interest in the study of popular Cypriot culture. She has written numerous articles and given lectures on folkloric themes, organized events on topics such as traditional embroidery, as well as presented a weekly 60-minute radio programme on Cypriot tradition and folk culture for many years.
“Bread surpasses its dimension as a staple food in multiple ways,” she explains, “at times through metaphysics and at others through its aesthetic, anthropological and sociological value.” She speaks with great respect of the women and other people who have helped her record the findings for her book. “They are humble people, who produce these works of art with love. Their entire soul is put into each and every one. Each bread is different, there are never two the same.”
How long does each of these take to produce and bake? Voskaridou, who has baked an entire collection of “museum pieces” by herself, explains that the whole process would normally take from 8pm till 3am for each decorative bread. Some may need more than others, depending on the complexity. She has clear memories of bread being baked and decorated by her mother and aunts, and is very keen for the tradition to be continued by the younger generation. “Tradition is not for regressing into the past,” she says, “but for going forward into the future. It is our duty to strengthen our faith in the uniqueness of our folk culture.”
She explains that first and foremost bread on the Cypriot table symbolizes, in our folk tradition, Christ himself. “That is why,” she says, “in the old days, no one would leave the table unless the bread was removed first.”
Special bread existed for Easter, for Christmas and for weddings – and it was prepared as if it was a real work of art. At Easter in numerous villages the bread made reference to the rebirth of Christ and therefore also to the Resurrection, and there was often a red coloured boiled egg set in the dough with decorative intent and symbolic meaning. Other breads for Easter also existed with biblical symbols such as the crossed hands of Jesus Christ and the crown of thorns.
The richest decorative breads were undoubtedly those produced for marriages and the religious feast days, including Christmas. They were decorated in intricate ways with zoomorphic and phitomorfic elements, created with great delicacy by masters and mistresses of the craft. Equally elaborate were the wedding breads that are given to the couple and guests as a sign of good luck.
Few things in human life are laden with such symbolism, few things have a more universal significance, and there is nothing which links our childhood to our adult life more than bread. In this respect, bread is also the cycle of life, accompanying us through childhood, adulthood, marriage and farewell from life. This moving book will no doubt inspire new generations of bread-makers to come up with their own designs to create unique gifts for their loved ones. “We often look for gifts for our children and grandchildren,” says Dorita Voskaridou, “forgetting the fact that you can produce any number of delightful presents with just a piece of dough. Those gifts were made with love, had high aesthetic value, and were gifts to which one devoted time. That was precious.”
There is a universal truth in her words which readers will discover for themselves while leafing through the pages, moved by the incredible beauty of the decorative breads of Cyprus which are baked and preserved as enduring mementoes of family milestones.
Published in Sunjet, July 2011
Dentist turns bread into a winner
To break bread with someone, to be the bread winner or to be the best thing since sliced bread. Ever since the first dough was kneaded into shape and thrust into an oven, bread has been a highly prized commodity in most cultures. The ubiquitous accessory to every meal was once more than just a side dish. It originated in Ancient Egypt then arrived in Cyprus via Greece in the seventh century BC, when this island garnered the reputation for the best bread in the Mediterranean region. Blessed with a good climate and fertile soil, the relatively poor Cypriots of yesteryear would transform the humble bread into a vast array of decorative innovations suitable for every occasion. In most village households of Cyprus decorative bread would be made weekly.
“Bread is the king of the house in Cyprus proverbs. It is very important still and is the main nutritional ingredient in our culture. In Cyprus’ popular traditions, bread on the table symbolised Jesus Christ himself. So nobody gets up from the table until the bread has been removed. The bread has to move first away from table,” says Dorita Voskaridou, author and founder of the Decorated Breads of Cyprus museum in Limassol.
“Bread is sacred for Cypriots and Greeks. I remember when I was little, if bread dropped on floor you’d pick it up kiss it and give it to the birds. You did not throw it in the dustbin. People were all very poor, all they had was bread and olives,” she explains.
With a welcoming smile, frizzy hair and glasses, Dorita was born in Paphos and graduated in Dentistry from the University of Athens. Twelve years ago, she started presenting a weekly radio programme about the culture and customs of Cyprus. Through this she began systematically researching and studying folkloric customs and traditions of Cyprus covering topics such as traditional embroidery, traditional cooking and tasting. Dorita became an active member of many cultural foundations and private clubs and started writing numerous articles and lectures on the folklore of Cyprus.
Her appreciation of the island’s traditional culture soon honed into bread. “I love to speak with people in villages about the folklore, people that have kept doing the same things, kept the tradition. I knew women from the radio show and from churches in the villages. If you visit one woman in the village then all the other women will approach you and help. They would know who made a particular style of decorative bread,” Dorita says.
Through talking to the community and seeing examples of traditional decorative bread Dorita became captivated by the artistry and symbolism behind these pieces. “Cyprus women take out the gentleness of their souls on the designs of the bread. The bread is a piece of folkloric art,” Dorita enthuses.
She was eager to learn the secrets of decorative bread making from the last surviving generations still practising this tradition. In the process she was aware that time was running out, which gave her the inspiration for writing her book, The Decorated Bread of Cyprus.
“My aim is to materialise the bread so that they remain. All the ladies who talk about the bread will die soon and their bread would go, so my target was to make the bread, preserve it with photographs and then put it in each house through this book. It is aimed at children to keep the tradition alive and at parents of children to remind the young generation. It’s a very optimistic book.”
Dorita’s book on folkloric breads is a collection of historical and personal testimonies written in both modern Greek and the Cypriot dialect. Decorative breads for every occasion, based on various village designs have been re-worked by Dorita. “The rural women are masters in the art of baking and decorating of bread. I went to women with a piece of dough and said ‘show me’. Slowly, slowly I made bread with dough that can be preserved. Then I organised the bread and in March 2009, I started to think I wanted excellent photos of the bread, alongside the village women’s quotes.”
For the book’s stunning photography, Dorita enlisted Nostos Publications. Commercial photographer Vassos Sylianou, who was responsible for the creative direction and publication of The Decorated Bread of Cyprus, explains the intention behind the book’s paired down style of clean lines, black and white imagery and the sparing use of a regal shade of red.
“Many books are far too busy. In a moment to yourself you need to rest your mind not have all these images on one page where you don’t know where to start. There’s too much vulgarity, too much is over design. I’d rather see a simple book. Anne Geddes said the hardest thing in photography is to create a simple image. That’s something I clearly believe in,” Vassos says.
“I wanted to give the impression that the bread is 3D. In this book the images are as important as the text,” he adds.
The chapters of the book are divided into the ‘circle of life’ with the breads which would have been made to celebrate each event featured in a chronological order. Decorative breads are mostly inedible, created for an ornamental effect to commemorate a special occasion. Bread in a circle branching out into stars is a glistarka, one of the patterns devised to celebrate a birth. Congratulations ribbons would be strung with smaller pieces of bread for guests to eat at a baptism. A ribbon with a piece of bread might be placed around a baby’s neck as a comforter while their mother worked in the fields. For engagements, an elaborately decorative bread containing the bride and groom’s initials would be placed over a wine bottle, which was used to invite each guest. At weddings people would throw miniature swirls of bread alongside money, rice and cotton at the happy couple to wish them health and prosperity. Funeral memorials would be marked with cross shaped breads. The book also depicts a wide variety of decorative name day breads and ones for Easter which incorporate eggs such as bread boats containing an egg. There are also a number of designs for Christmas. People in villages for name days would be given a doll made from the hardest of breads. Girls made clothes for them so they could play, and there were bread Santa Claus or Saint Basil dolls also created for the children.
Time after time the same symbols are seen in repetition such as crosses; grapes and vines; stars; the initials JC (for Jesus Christ); frogs (a symbol of fertility); doves (for purity); camels (to symbolise the ability to endure); Christ being crucified; baskets and snakes.
“All the symbols came from the ancient times when people used to believe in 12 gods. There are symbols from ancient Greek pots. From excavations we then find the same symbols in bread. The snake came from ancient Greek times as the good spirit of the house, there to ward off evil as the black snake doesn’t bite. Basket shapes are thousands of years old dating back to when we would make sacrifices to the gods. It was after the days of sacrificing people and animals. There was no blood then just bread. This basket shape and custom is still alive especially in Kathikas, a village near Paphos where they keep wedding customs and do fantastic breads on the day of the wedding,” says Dorita.
For the book Dorita spoke to village women across the whole island to find a variety of styles and designs for the decorative breads.
“I saw many villages, islandwide. There were Byzantine shapes and influences. Women in villages see icons of churches which inspire them to go home and make the bread. Every village has different kinds of symbols and every woman has a different, very personal style, for example one village may have the same symbol but each woman makes something different. Every woman has her own aesthetic,” muses Dorita.
Images throughout the book are accompanied by quotes, anecdotes, recipes and stories from the women responsible for making the bread. These are written in Cypriot dialect while the rest of the text is written in modern Greek. Dorita is proud of the book’s attempt at preserving the authenticity of her interviewee’s voices. “A person who reads this book should be transported back in time with all the different dialects,” she suggests.
With the launch of the book Dorita was also given the opportunity to set up a permanent exhibition of dough artefacts in Limassol. In the To Ploumisto Psomi (Decorated Bread) museum and shop, Dorita is surrounded by replicas of the breads mounted on wood. There are also bread charms, placemats and embroidery pieces. Running a shop such as this had always been a dream for Dorita, who has long since given up practising dentistry and who says people can experience the role and importance of bread in local society. Dorita also stresses that the items for sale are authentic souvenirs of Cyprus.
Just as she’d hoped her passion would be shared with younger generations, a mother and daughter stroll into the shop. The child wants something to present to her class at school the following day. Dorita’s mission to keep the Cypriot custom alive looks like it will be a success
“We lost an important tradition but we can revive it slowly and start to enrich it,” smiles Dorita confidently.
To Ploumisto Psomi tis Kyprou (The Decorated Bread of Cyprus) by Dorita Voskaridou is available in book stores islandwide (excluding Paphos), €36.75. Tel: 25 354810