One interpretation of Easter traditions is that they reflect a point where the rising tide of Christianity incorporated the preexisting rites of pagan culture and other religious solstice and fertility celebrations. Though the oldest existing remnants of pysanky or “Ukranian Easter eggs” (pronounced “pih-son-kih” with all short vowels) date back to the early 1700s, and therefore fall well within the bounds of established Christendom, the symbolism and intricately wrought motifs of this folk tradition seem to draw equally on nature and mysticism as on Christianity for their inspiration.
Thanks to the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit, you can judge for yourself, as more than 1,000 pysanky from their collection are currently on display in a collaborative effort with the Detroit Historical Museum. The DHM has sweetened their free admissions deal with extended hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) from Monday, April 1-Sunday, April 7 to accommodate Spring Breakers with a passion for history.
The exhibit is highly informative, providing not only a history of the origin, function and complex symbology of pysanky, but also a fascinating glimpse at the historical record of Ukrainian immigration and culture within the Detroit area. In addition to the colorful eggs (which bear some low-fi resemblance to the popular Fabergé eggs at the DIA last year), there is a display of traditional Ukrainian clothing and costumes, as well as an instrument called a bandura.
Overall, yet another triumphant effort by the DHM to raise awareness about cultural subsets within the Detroit metro population. The previous exhibit in the space was a highly engaging exhibit on the Focus:HOPE organization.
Detroit Historical Museum: 5401 Woodward, Detroit; 313-833-1805; detroithistorical.org
Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit: 11756 Charest St., Hamtramck; 313-366-9764; www.ukrainianmuseumdetroit.org