Apron made in Mislesevo-Vevcani, Struga, Macedonia, 1985, lent by Radmilla Karamacoska
It was love at first sight when I saw the aprons I was to be working on for an upcoming exhibition here at the Museum. I was seduced by the gorgeous colours, textures, and stories of Macedonian culture woven into them.
This photograph shows Curator Lindie Ward, Interpreter Verica Sajdovska and me in discussion with apron lender Angelina Todoroska. Angelina is describing the technique and significance of the construction and decoration of this vest, another aspect of traditional Macedonian dress
For the past three months, we have been gathering information about the Macedonian aprons and documenting the stories of five Macedonia women from the Illawarra. With the aid of volunteer interpreter Verica Sajdovska I travelled back to my hometown of Wollongong to document their stories.
A particularly memorable experience was hearing about aprons from sisters Spasija Aleksoska and Kostadinka Jordeska.
Sisters Spasija Aleksoska and Kostadinka Jordeska talking about Spasija’s aprons
When I asked how they wore the aprons Spasija acted out the motions- folding and placing thick towels underneath her top, padding out her stomach and tying the apron on top.
“The men prefer large women. If she is too skinny, how can she work in the fields? When I was young I was skinny and the men would tease me. I would say to them, If you want meat go to the butcher, I am fine as I am. They would always prefer the skinny girls to dance with though”.
All the women described to me how the different colours and patterns were worn for different ages and how they could tell where a person came from by looking at their apron. The women also showed and described the techniques used to make aprons, including weaving, embroidery and making pompoms.
I came away with a deeper knowledge of the significance of these aprons, a full stomach, and some prospective Macedonian nephews and grandsons to date!
I would personally like to thank the five Macedonian women that were interviewed, for their kindness and willingness to share their apron stories. I feel privileged to have met and learnt from these remarkable women, who, when asked why they wove the aprons the way they did, replied, “it is how it should be, it is how it has always been, it is tradition”.
Photography © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved