Today people are constantly in a hurry, having time only to look in front of them. Ancient Estonians and indigenous people all around the world did and still take time to gaze at the stars to see the future. The Sun, the Stars and the Moon shine the same way and tell the same stories to different nations.
Ornaments are like rhythms you can find everywhere, they clarify and structure the world, enthuse one to find new patterns. Rhythms are the base of nature, art and everyday life. We have gathered symbols from all four corners of Earth: Estonia, Australia, Africa, America.
Brooch Roses, ornaments from Estonian national jewelry are ancient symbols of love and generosity. They, like stars, showed the way in stormy life, seamen literally navigated according to the Compass Rose. On and off the shore men were after roses to collect them and bring home to their wives and children. They were believed to have healing power.
Feather Arrangements, circularly arranged patterns of the Navajo tribe are related to the Sun, and therefore, the Creator.
Indigenous Australians live in bone-dry heat, which gives the desert fauna an extraordinary lighting and color-set. Round campsites and dotted body art, which resemble X-ray pictures, have been captured in our exhibits.
Khanty people living on the banks of the Ob river gather their power from the reindeer. Our Northern neighbors, the Finnish, listened to the stories of the Moon.
Modernity navigates according to the Stars and the Seas. They keep our inner balance and protect us from rushing blindly and superficially.
Brooches with eyes
Brooch “Sõlg“ is the most traditional and characteristic Estonian ornament . “Prees“ is a specific tiny flat brooch with jagged edges. These silver or copper ornaments are recognized by their colored glass stones, which are usually wine-red or seldom green. Such brooches may also be found with whitish eyes. In that case there has been a shortage of red glass. Alternatively, a piece of red cloth, which has eventually lost its color, has been put under transparent glass. About a quarter of those brooches are decorated with eyes and particularly valued. The number of eyes is always even. “Prees“ is a unique Estonian adornment, unknown among neighboring nations or farther. Just like a “sõlg“, it may come in different sizes, shapes and designs depending on its original locations. The surface of a brooch is usually covered with shed, grained or engraved patterns.
Brooch “Sõlg“ is the most traditional and characteristic Estonian ornament. It was used as a chest decoration and fixing element for the clothing. These brooches were made of silver or inferior metals, such as copper and tin. While tiny hoop brooches were used by men and women to attach the shirt neck, in South-Estonia, the brooch was a measure of wealth and pride. Large cone brooches were the most festive adornments of southern Estonian peasant women. The sound of silver coin necklaces beating against their bowl-sized brooches always accompanied their songs and dances. In North-Estonia and on the islands, brooches were smaller and several were worn at the same time. The overwhelming share of brooches have been found during archaeological excavations or as isolated findings from the ground. The oldest of these originates from the 8th century B. C. Not all of the brooches are round, there are also heart-shaped brooches, which date back to the 13th century, some of these with added pendent decorations. Other brooches are starlike or wear plant ornaments. While traditional costumes were homemade and therefore each parish had its own specific design, brooches were made by craftsmen who mostly worked in towns and sold their art at fairs. The word “sõlg“ derives from Finno-Ugric language and it originally meant anything that connects two objects. In the 19th century these brooches were believed to have healing power. As we know today, silver ions indeed do.
Brooch Roses are ancient symbols of love and beauty which were believed to show souls the way in the stormy vortex of life. Compass roses guided sailors to find the right direction, the arrowhead always pointing to the north. In the heavy sea breezes, the flowers twined themselves on the cloaks of ancient Estonians as hooks. Precious talismans were brought home and given to the wives who had keenly been waiting for their men. In time, these became flower blossoms on various brooches. Red flowers have decorated the brooches with their petals, light blooms have turned to wheels and spirals in the whirl of winds. The wheels of roses roll over land and water, heading the destiny of people. The brooch roses still live in Estonian traditional costumes, applied art and in our thoughts. They hold our inner balance and keep us from rushing blindly and superficially.
Estonians belong to the Finno-Ugric nations group, who share close traditions and symbols. Different people speak different languages, but as once we were all indigenous people, the Sun, the Moon, the stars and the creatures from nature have strong mythical meanings for us.
„Kuutar“ the Moon Goddess ornament is an ancient Scandinavian jewelry design. This symbol has the same meaning for our neighbors Finns, as the traditional brooch has for Estonians. In Northern lands, the Moon often lightens more than the Sun, guiding the people. On their trade trips to the east, the Vikings stopped off on the Finnish coast to trade weapons and jewelry for furs, their ornaments leaving a mark in the lives of our coastal people.
The northern nations had a special relationship with the waterfowl, the symbol of the magic of fertility. The return of the birds of passage in the spring marked the beginning of summer, the start of a new year. When the waterfowl returned, people knew that nature was emerging from its winter hibernation. Many Finno-Ugric nations have genesis legends where the creator of the world sends the devil in the form of a bird to the bottom of the primordial ocean to bring the land out of the water. The importance of the waterfowl in the Finno-Ugric world view has been confirmed by archaeological findings such as flipper-shaped and duck-shaped bronze pendants. The motive of duck legs is often added to the Moon Goddess ornament.
The Khanty people are a Finno- Ugric nation in West-Siberia, also kin to Estonians. They live scattered on a wide territory by vast rivers. This is a land of large forests and swamps. They mostly live on fishing and reindeer-raising. For Estonians, bear is a ritual animal, but the Khanty hunt the reindeer and use it as a beast of burden. Meat is one of the most important alimentations which is eaten boiled, raw, frozen, dried and smoked. After killing a reindeer, the people drink its blood. For centuries, the Khanty have made their clothing from reindeer leather. A typical fur coat has gloves sewn on to the ends of the sleeves, also serving a spiritually protective purpose. The winters in Siberia are freezing cold and the Khantys still wrap up in reindeer leathers. As reindeer horn is a valued resource for the people, it has become the most common pattern in their art.
Estonians and aboriginal Australians under the same stars and skies
While a modern man is constantly looking at the ground to see what he might find, so that he might profit from it, an ancient man was constantly gazing at the stars in which he hoped to see the future and thus become a prophet. Estonians and aboriginal Australians are situated far away from each other but they share the same Sun, stars and Moon, the sources of creation. For Estonians, rose was a symbol of the stars. The Aborigines were among the world's first astronomers. They named constellations after the animals they knew and used the stars to tell stories. In Aboriginal art, the symbol of a star is very similar to the symbol of a campsite, a circle surrounded by dots. While camp fire brings together one community to tell stories, starlight unites all the people of the world, who all have their own perception of the universe.
Indigenous art is a story of creation, fertility and relations. When aboriginal symbols appear in dark colors, they signify ordinary people, but when surrounded by dots, it means they are in the process of initiation- learning the Dreaming. In the Dreamtime, the very first beings emerged from inside the earth, from the sky or from across the seas. Known by different names, these beings are now called Ancestors or Ancestral Spirits. While waterfowl is the creator dominating in Finno-Ugric, the aboriginal Australians depicted humans and animals or highly symbolic designs constructed from circles, zigzags and animal tracks. Rock-paintings of a particular animal were often made to increase their abundance and to ensure a successful hunt by placing people in touch with the creature's spirit. The so-called „X- ray“ tradition in Aboriginal art is a style in which animals and humans are depicted with their insides visible: the spinal column, ribs and internal organs can all been seen. Body painting carries enormous spiritual significance for Aborigines. Used mostly at funeral ceremonies and in initiation rituals, the designs indicate an individual's social and family relationships and enable him or her to become filled with the power of the Dreamtime.
“Aboriginal achievement is like the dark side of the moon, for it is there, but so little is known.“
Ernie Dingo, from Inside Black Australia: An Anthology of Aboriginal Poetry
Native American Brooches
Estonian, Finno-Ugric and native American brooches have similar shapes and bear the same symbols, their expressions vary depending on the materials, which are found in their countries. Native Americans used turquoise and other precious stones to give shine and strength to symbols.
The sun and the eagle are two fundamental symbols in Indian mythology. The eagle identifies with the sun as the rose identifies with the star in Estonian ornaments. The circular eagle feather arrangements are found on pottery, masks, prayer fans, costumes for dance and on war bonnets. It is also used on decorated buffalo hides, telling a story in paint in memory of war and other important historic events. Placed in a circular arrangement, they are related to the Sun, and therefore, the Creator. A circle with rays reaching out is the symbol of the Sun and happiness, a circle with an internal spiral symbolizes the four ages: infancy, youth, middle and old age. Further, a circle with spokes inside is the symbol of a Navajo hogan. Navajo spiritual practice is about restoring balance and harmony to a person's life to produce health.
Silversmithing is an important art form among the Navajo tribe. The Navajo's hallmark jewelry piece called the "squash blossom" necklace first appeared in the 1880s. The term "squash blossom" was apparently attached to the name of the Navajo necklace at an early date, although its bud-shaped beads are thought to derive from Spanish-Mexican pomegranate designs. The form of the silver naja, or pendant, at the end of the squash blossom necklace is traceable to Moorish Spain and even farther back in time to a device used to ward off the evil eye. Turquoise has been a part of jewelry for centuries. Navajo silversmiths were creating handmade jewelry for tribal use and to sell to tourists as a way to supplement their income.
The Zuni are also known for their fine silversmithing which began in the 1870s after they learned fundamental techniques from the Navajo. Religion is central to Zuni life. Their religious beliefs are centered on the three most powerful of their deities: Earth Mother, Sun Father, and Moonlight-Giving Mother. Today jewelry making thrives as an art form among the Zuni. Many Zuni have become master silversmiths and perfected the skill of stone inlay. They found that by using small pieces of stone, they were able to create intricate designs and unique patterns. Small oval-shaped stones with pointed ends are set close to one another and side by side. The technique is normally used with turquoise in creating necklaces or rings. Zuni also make carvings and necklaces for the purpose of rituals and trade and more recently for sale to collectors.
Brooch Roses (Estonian national ornaments)
- Eight textile brooches (Ø 23-32 inches)
- Four sets of jewelry
- Two quilts (47x75 inches)
- One jewelry set
Native American tribal jewelry (Navajo, Zuni)
- Two circular textiles (Ø 27-32 inches)
- One jewelry set
Symbols of the kindred nations of Estonians (Khanty, Finnish)
- Reindeer quilt (24x47 inches)
- Kuutar textile brooch (Ø 28 inches)
- One jewelry set
Materials used (most of the materials are recycled)
- Textile exhibits: linen and woollen textile, felt, woollen yarn hand-dyed with organic materials, rope, metal fittings, studs, buttons, zippers.
- Jewelry: old jewelry pieces (national brooches, metal parts, beads), silver plated wire, copper and brass wire, glass, metal and ceramic beads, rhinestones, semiprecious stones, metal parts and chains.
- Textile: patchwork and quilting, folding, embroidery, manipulating with fabric.
- Jewelry: beading with wire, herringbone, hewing metal and manipulating with wire.
- Textiles: equipped with strips and loops for hanging.
- Jewelry: showcased in glassed aluminium frames (12x18 inches, 5 inches deep).
- Printed texts explaining the symbolic backgrounds