Kolotzia – Get creative with dry Gourds
“When the dragons fell asleep, Spanos took a large gourd, filled it with dark red wine and put it in his bed under the blanket. The dragons woke up and started pounding and pummeling the covers trying to kill him. They hit the gourd, which cracked, spilling the red wine”.
Gourds had a versatile use in the daily life of villagers in Cyprus. And this is what we talk about in this article. But in the meantime, if you want to read the whole story of Spanos and the Forty Dragons, follow the Precious Waters route.
A gourd is a vegetable of the marrow family which hangs from climbing plants often seen adorning the terraces of country houses and taverns. In the old days they were used as containers or as decoration objects.
Once cut from the plant, gourds go through several stages of preparation before being used as containers or ornaments. First, they need to be thoroughly dry before they get a yellow-brown color. Then their outer layer is peeled away. To remove the seeds from inside, pieces of glass or spiky stones are inserted into the gourd which is then shaken. Warm pine tar is poured in and stirred until it forms a thin even layer on the inside walls. This way the pores of the gourd are sealed.
Then we can move to the decoration part. The decoration is done with a sharp knife, ail or needle. The designs vary from simple geometric shapes to designs from everyday life, Greek mythology, animals and human figures. The engraver spreads a mixture of ash and oil or black olives or charcoal all over the surface of the gourd to make the engraved designs more visible.
For hundreds of years gourds have been cleaned and prepared in this way and have been used as liquid containers. Farmers and shepherds filled them with water and carried them in their “vourka” (a goatskin bag) for the needs of the day. Gourds with straight neck and round body were used as water and wine containers. Small gourds were used by hunters to carry the gun powder. Gourds were also used to store cutlery; in this case a triangular hole had to be carved on their side. They were also used as a ladle for the laundry or to take wine out of the jar; in that case the hole was cut lengthwise. Nowadays gaily painted gourds have come to be used as vases and lamp bases.
The bottle gourd is called “Kolotzi” or “Vlassin” in our dialect, and these words are used in idioms and expressions. “You are kolokos/kolotzi” means that you are stupid, having an empty head like a gourd. The expression “Their kolotzia have broken”, referring to broken gourds containing wine, means that the matchmaking did not work out, thus, the daughters would remain unmarried. When someone loses his colour, we say that “he has turned into a yellow vlassin” or “evlassiasen”. Lastly, if somebody is too thirsty or drinks much water, we called him “kolotzia” because this plant needs a lot of water to grow.
You can purchase adorned gourds from souvenir shops or handicraft centres. Yet, if you are the creative type, you may join a designated workshop along the Heartland of Legends route and decorate your own personalized gourd.
WORTH TO VISIT
Exhibition of Adorned Gourds
Tel: +357 22942450 c/o Foulla Papadopoulou