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  • Petto Cantarutti

How 16th century design from Fanø can connect cultures all over the world?


A few Sundays ago, more precisely on July the 20th, a friend of mine from Esbjerg invited me to go to Fanø to a festival called Sønderhodag.


Well, I didn´t know anything at all about Fanø, and even less about this festival, so I will make a quick introduction. Fano is an island located on the west coast of Jutland, characterized mainly by shipping, and nowadays by tourism. And is also part of the Wadden sea, that in 2014 was included in the UNESCO´s world heritage list. Beyond these facts, why this island is important and famous for, is because is here and only here that many living traditions have survived such as, ways to dress, dance and playing music. By living traditions I mean, people have been respecting the same dress codes and creating the same music for centuries on a daily basis and is not something that just happens once a year as a way to remember old times. But it is once a year, every 3rd Sunday of July, that this island makes this Sønderhodag festival, to explain why this phenomenon happens. So, there is music being played everywhere, people from all ages dancing, and men and women wearing their best traditional dress along the street.


So, even though, there are many things happening around the city, there is a main act where a fictitious wedding is running followed by a sailor arriving after months of sailing and runs desperately to his wife to be with her, and using these situations to explain customs and clothes. Clothes of daily life, bride, widow, baby suits, harvesting and others, where each color, pattern, and shape means something.

Meanwhile the act was carry out, I was thinking about the similarities of dresses with some south-american native cultures, like Peruvians, some in the north of Argentina or some African-Americans in the south of U.S.A. But of course, this didn´t happened by chance, mostly of the dresses were made by fabrics brought by the sailors from South-america, Netherlands, Asia and Africa. Then, after the event was done, I met the three women you can see in the first pic, and one of them was super happy about me asking her for a picture, and started to tell me about the whole story of her dress, and how proud she was of it, because it was made by her grandmother when she was 15, also told me about how difficult it was to find the same fabrics nowadays, like her scarf´s fabric was irreplaceable for example. So then I thought about how much we tend to appropriate something and charge it with symbolism and meaning. because mostly of these dresses were similar to others cultures, and even made with the same fabrics, but at the same time, people were giving such a profound meaning to every detail, that can identify a whole culture, so these differences and similarities could be that in a way is what distinguish danish culture from others, but also what make them be closer too.


But was caused me a bigger impact was the harvesting dress of women. Because of men were mainly sailors, women were in charge of all the agricultural activities, like harvesting. Let´s remember that Fano is an island, so is full of sand, wind and sea, all these together can really damage your skin, so what mainly characterizes this dress its a kind of veil called ´´strude´´ women use during harvesting activities. And I have to admit that is really a shocking image to see girls using them, because are kind of veils, not something you would relate with Denmark, and with the current laws prohibiting burkas.

So, there must to be some importance in bear in mind our history, our customs, and not turn our back to them, because maybe, just maybe, we all in the world have more things in commons that what we actually think.


Harvesting dress. copyright Niels Nørgård

#visitfanø #fanø #sønderho #traditions #strude #tolerance

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