Mennonite Heritage Village

Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns

January 26, 2023

By Andrea Klassen

On Wednesday night last week, guests gathered in the Gerhard Ens Gallery at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) to open “Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns,” an exhibit by Margruite Krahn. Krahn is an artist based in Neubergthal and “Resurfacing” highlights twenty years of her research and artistic expression re-creating historical Mennonite floor patterns. 

Inside the gallery, visitors can see fifteen of Krahn’s original works of art that re-imagine and re-create historical Mennonite floor patterns found in old housebarns, mostly located in the former Mennonite West Reserve (around the Winkler, Morden area). Alongside the floor cloths, the exhibit includes a unique collage of photos taken of thirty-six historical patterns found by Krahn and Roland Sawatzky, Curator of History at the Manitoba Museum, during his PhD research on Mennonite housebarns.  Despite the age and layers of paint shown on the floors in the photos, visitors with a keen eye will be able to find many of their historical patterns in Krahn’s artwork throughout the exhibit.

Rounding out the exhibit are artefacts, like a trap door from about 1910, found in the Klippenstein housebarn in Neubergthal, and a section of original floor boards from about 1912, found in the Herdsman’s House, also in the Neubergthal. The artefacts highlight the original floor patterns found in both buildings and feature both floral and geometric patterns. The trap door is particularly unique in that it demonstrates how floors were repeatedly re-painted with new patterns. It features numerous levels of paint and three different patterns, each painted over the last one.

Margruite Krahn with some of her original artworks, historical Mennonite floor patterns re-created on floor cloths. (Photo provided by Margruite; Credit to Lorraine Stevenson, Manitoba Cooperator)

At the opening, Krahn remarked that Mennonite floor patterns help to dispel the idea that Mennonites from the past were drab, austere people with no eye for beauty or need for creativity. Indeed, visitors walking into the gallery were struck by the vibrant colours and bold designs of the patterns on display. Krahn used her floor cloths to challenge the crowd at the opening to think about history differently and to question whether our commonly held ideas about history are actually true. Her comment brought to mind a sign I saw in Steinbach last year with this word of caution: “don’t believe everything you think.” I invite you to visit MHV to take in “Resurfacing,” on display now until April 1, and re-consider what you thought you knew about history.

Upcoming Events:

Winter in the Village, ON NOW, bring your friends and family to see the festive lights at MHV! You can skate along our trail or outdoor rink. We will also rent out skates, snowshoes and kicksleds for you to try out in the village. Then end the night with some hot chocolate. Our warming hut (located at the back of the General Store) will be open for visitors.

MHV Village Books & Gifts and Galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday. Currently MHV has two new exhibits for you to enjoy: “Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns” by Margruite Krahn and “Beauty in the Ordinary” by Southeast Artists.

Winter Carnival, February 18 to 20 Family activity, including skating, tobogganing, sleigh rides, walking trails, games, and food. There will also be special presentations/performances throughout the weekend. More info to come.

Pier 21 the Musical, March 18 (7pm), March 19 (3pm) This musical utilizes a blend of Celtic and swing music to tell the stories of those who fled from Europe and arrived at Pier 21 – the gateway to Canada. Witness the adventures, hopes, dreams, and heartaches of immigrants, orphans, and war brides as they navigate their arrival to this new land. Tickets are $25 and include coffee & dessert.