Culture News, 08/02/2021

Clay Toy from Kharkiv Region Registered in National Cultural Heritage List

At the end of January Olha Timoshenko, the artist, presented her ceramic works at the Artistic Vers Libre exposition. 

According to the exhibition’s curator Natalia Pedan, 54 presented works include pet and fantastic creature ceramics typical for the plots of Valky district ceramics. 

The main focus of the exhibition has become a colorful folk clay toy – a whistle. The exhibition presents all sorts of funny whistles in the form of rams, bulls, hogs. 

The artist states that she and her colleagues managed to make the Valky whistle a national treasure. The art of making a “’Valkivska svistulka’ (Ukrainian: Valky whistle) clay toy” is included in the national intangible cultural heritage list 

The main feature of the traditional whistle is its naturalness. The traditional folk whistle should be the color of natural clay. It’s decorated by a slight indentation or smears with white and terracotta clay. The whistle was glazed very rarely. Each whistle conveyed an image that is also simplified and symbolic. As a rule, animals like birds, horses, bulls, hogs, rams were embodied in the toy. 

“Starting to create a whistle, the ceramist becomes the author of its sound. The sound is formed due to the hollow chamber inside the toy and the ingress of air into it at a certain angle,” explains the artist. To make the sound clear, the inner surface of the chamber should be as smooth as possible. The strength and pitch of the sound depend on the size of the chamber: the smaller it is, the higher and shriller the whistle sounds. 

The whistle played a big part in the life and culture of the Ukrainian family, in the raising and development of children, obviously including cultural upbringing. Clay toys were brought from the fair to children along with a treat. “On the street, children competed in the sound of whistles – this is how a group, team, leaders were formed,” says Olha.  

“Many children have learned from me how to make a Valky whistle. First, a child picks up a piece of wet clay and does not know what comes out. But then you see the happy eyes of the child who finishes the work: he or she almost creates the first musical instrument in his or her life. This piece of work is imperfect, but communication with clay is a life-giving state,” the artist concludes. 

The exhibition takes place in Kharkiv Regional Organizational and Methodological Center of Culture and Art at 62 Pushkinska St. 

Text: Natalia Ivanova