Mennonite Floors: Not Just for Walking On!

Happy New Year! I’m beginning the year by telling you about an exhibit that closed yesterday, December 31st, New Year’s Eve. So, if you didn’t get to see it, I suppose it’s not entirely fair of me to mention it. And yet, here I go anyway!

The first time I encountered a Mennonite floor pattern, I was at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach. It was probably during Fall on the Farm or on August long weekend. I stepped into the Summer Kitchen, and the floor immediately arrested my attention. Vibrant red and blue flowers with green stems, painted in a pattern on a vivid yellow background. I searched for an explanation, and found it: an interpretive notice was posted, and this is where I learned about Margurite Krahn from Neubergthal and her work of carefully uncovering Mennonite floor patterns. She had been commissioned to duplicate one such pattern in the MHV summer kitchen.

I generally am not able to remember many specifics from each visit to the MHV — but for some reason I remembered Margruite’s name, and the summer kitchen floor.  And how perhaps these brightly painted, intricate floor patterns were likely a way for Mennonite women to express themselves in ways they couldn’t otherwise (i.e. how they dressed).

So when I read MaryLou Driedger’s blog post about Margruite’s floor patterns, re-created and on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, I knew we’d have to check it out. Unfortunately, I only managed to get there on the very last day. I blame time for this. It goes by very quickly and I still have not managed to tame it… nor manage it well.

We very nearly made a purchase. Only thing is, we’re thinking of moving to a condo within the next few years and some of these pieces are quite large, so we don’t know yet what will work in that space.

In the meantime, we played the game of “which one should we buy”. I voted for a large canvas with geometric shapes on a background of mint-green, tinged with blue. I was interested in this because this colour was found throughout my great-grandmother’s house — a colour I was fascinated by.

I wonder if my great-grandmother’s house had painted floors. I feel like they were probably linoleum… would which explain why I can’t really remember them. But what was under that linoleum? We can never know… because I remember the day the house was torn down. It was the last time we drove that country road. My dad paused the car on the road and we quietly looked at the yard one last time. Everything was changed. The past was being removed. I was angry. I was sad. And I knew I had to get over it. There was nothing we could do to stop it. We drove away and that was that.

I’m grateful for the work that Margruite is doing in finding and preserving these patterns. The WAG exhibit has closed, but it’s not too late to see these floors. You could make an appointment to visit The Art Loft in Neubergthal. You could contact Margruite yourself and tell her you’re interested in seeing either the Mennonite floor pattern paintings she has created/duplicated, and/or book a tour of Neubergthal with the Neubergthal Heritage Foundation and see the floors as part of the village tour.