The Silk Embrace in Boka Bay

By , 24 Oct 2018, 16:13 PM Lifestyle
The Silk Embrace in Boka Bay Pixabay

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October 24, 2018 - In the second half of the nineteenth century, prominent Boka clergyman Lazar Ercegovic was a great opponent of the departure by young men and women from Boka Bay to find a better life for themselves. He often said that there is no bread and sun as in a homeland where just "in the mulberries of Boka there are so many buried treasures". And the treasure of the Lazarus was the cultivation of silkworm!                

Throughout the XIX century, Boka Bay was one of the most famous European regions for silk - out of the total quantity of silkworms on the eastern Adriatic coast, in the former Austro-Hungarian region of Dalmatia, half of it was produced in Boka. From this part of the emperor, silk was exported in the first years of the XIX century, truely in small quantities - state the statistical books at that time. This suggests that the silk or the production of silkworms shell in Austria was found in Boka Bay.

People from Boka are great lovers of silk, so there are many dresses and decorative items of folk women's and men's suits of silk: from the handkerchiefs to aprons and men's belts. And the famous scarf that the women from Boka hid from the male's eyes was silk. There were 16 kinds of silk fabrics available on the Boka market!              

Sericulture, as a part of modern economy, became significant in Austro-Hungary in the thirties of the nineteenth centurywhen the Government announced the annual award for the best mulberry tree breeders - essential for the cultivation of the silkworm beetle that eats mulberry leaves.

Already in 1829, a silk workshop was established in Zadar, and two years later in Kotor. Then at the Zadar workshop, there was training for girls who would work in existing and future workshops in Dalmatia. Among them were girls from Boka Bay.            

When the talks about the Boka sericulture began, we do not know, but in the book of the City Council of Kotor, on 17th October 1333, the name of Kotor's silkworm Dobroslava was recorded. We can assume that the silky beetle was already in the vicinity of Kotor. It is known for importing capsules from Skadar and some other regions.

In the mid-16th century, the Venetian authorities ordered the cutting of mulberry trees, and thus an interruption in the production of silkworms in all parts of the Republic of the eastern Adriatic coast, and thus in Boka Bay. The reasons for these drastic measures are of economic nature, better said to protect the monopoly of silk production in Venice. The mulberry is re-planted during the 17th century and Boka returned to the sericulture, and the shells are mostly completed in Venetian manufactories, from where meters of expensive silk are returned to Boka.                  

During the XIX century, the planting of the mulberry trees was contributed by the measures of the Austrian Government, which provided free seedlings and encourages cultivation and other actions. It was recorded that more than 70,000 mulberry trees were planted in Boka in 1870. Then, the silk workshops that supervised the production of silk (1871 in Kotor) were opened, and in many schools, there was a special class about silkworm and silkworm breeding. Boka Kotorska is already a major manufacturer of silk worm shells and silk products produced in several workshops. Although there is contradictory data in professional papers and official statistics at the time, it can still be argued that in the middle of the 19th century, Boka was the European Silk Center.

 In Kotor, in 1834, there were 7 workshops, and in Herceg Novi six. According to other data, in Boka Bay and Budva that year, there were 136 textile manufactures.

In the 1960s, two modern silk factories were opened, both in Prčanj owned by brothers Sbutega and brothers Milin. Together they had 26 stoves and the most modern equipment from Italy, so the owners quickly acquired the monopoly in silk production and the purchase of shells. There was a domestic, mostly female labor force, but also experts from Furlana. There are 630 Silk Shell manufacturers registered in Boka, among which one of the most famous is Vuko Tripkovic from Lastva. The silkworm is found in all parts of Boka Kotorska, and in the seventies of the nineteenth century, 6,000 families were engaged in the sericulture. The production record was recorded in 1861 when 29,453 pounds or 16,500 kilograms of silk shells were produced.                   

Prcanj has been a sericulture center for almost 60 years, and after the closure of the factory, there are about a dozen smaller ones in Kotor and Herceg Novi. With the beginning of the First World War, synthetic threads were discovered which, due to cheap production, endangered the sericulture that slowly disappeared. Someone was still in the silkworms farming business until the 1950s when Boka sericulture definitely went into history.

Text by Mašo Čekić, on October 24th 2018, read more at Radio Tivat

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