“Matyó” or “Matyósag” is the collective term for the ethnographic group that emerged in the historic market-town Mezőkövesd in the 18th- 19th century. The people of its neighbouring area – Tard and Szentistván – also consider themselves as belonging to this Catholic community, identifying with its heritage and incorporating its elements into their daily lives.

This unique design reflects the traditional folk culture, the social structure and the way of life of its craftsmen. The pattern and the practice of these skills are important components of the Matyó being: it is often embroidered onto the clothes of local people and viewed as a communal activity that strengthens the bonds within the community.

The Matyó tradition and culture exists not only within the boundaries of embroidery, it also manifests itself in other handicrafts, folk dance, songs and music, poetry and language dialects. As the national identity became a central issue at the turn of the 19th century, the folk art of the community attained a rather widespread popularity. Still today the Matyó folklore – especially the embroidery – portrays the artistic expression of Hungarian national consciousness and forms a great part of the contemporary culture.

The well-known embroidery is based upon decorative painting techniques; its colourful motifs include densely packed leaves, petals and the most traditional one, the rose. Today, the classic patterns can be found not only on clothes but on tablecloths, doilies, napkins, shawls, blouses and other garments.

In December 2012 this vibrant and powerfully rich folk art became a part of the UNESCO World Heritage and was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The reviewer committee considered the embroidery’s part in strengthening interpersonal relations and community cohesion, the human creativity of its craftsmen and its cultural and traditional heritage outstanding and worthy of preservation.

In September 2013 Matyó folk art was included on the list of the Hungarian Value Repository, most commonly referred to as “Hungaricums”. According to the intentions of the founders, the only acceptable products are of known origins, distinctively Hungarian and internationally recognised. The national values that are listed as “Hungaricums” are protected by the law – as some sort of copyright – and supported by the committee. The Matyó embroidery is undoubtedly an essential representative of the highlights of Hungarian culture and forms a justified element of the 86 national treasures.

Although Mezőkövesd is still the cornerstone and centre of the Matyó folk art, artworks can be bought throughout Hungary and they are popular on online platforms as well – such as ebay or amazon. Numerous young artists have rediscovered the roots of national folklore and used the Matyó motifs as a reassertion of their national identity and affiliation.

Matyó embroidery embodies not only the folk art of this northern Hungarian community but – due to its long-standing popularity and timeless design – the whole of the national consciousness.

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