The Silk Mansion (To Archontiko tou Metaxiou - available in Greek only)

The Silk Mansion (To Archontiko tou Metaxiou - available in Greek only)

Matoula Karayianni-Tolka
Illustration: Eleni Kotsoni
Athens 2017, 64p.
ISBN 978-960-244-188-6
€ 14.50

Built in the late 19th century, the Brikas Mansion overlooking Soufli’s “Mesochori” square still stands tall. It was the largest “koukoulospito” (literally a cocoonery, as the large houses centred on sericulture were then called) in terms of silkworm rearing, and its owner the biggest producer of silkworm seed (eggs). During the War of 1940, the children of three families whose fathers had been conscripted found refuge in this mansion. They watched the silkworm’s rearing and the harvesting of silkworm seed, and acquired a lot of knowledge in the most amusing way, participating in the silkworm’s life cycle: its birth, its endless meal, its sleep, its quirks, its growing up, its transformations from a tiny egg to an ugly caterpillar, which spins its cocoon and then self-imprisons itself there until it becomes a beautiful moth.

Author and teacher Matoula Karayianni-Tolka transports us to one of the most characteristic cocooneries of Soufli, allowing us to observe all the stages of domestic sericulture and silk manufacture. Thus, we not only understand the individual phases of a traditional cottage industry that has now shrunk, but also observe the daily life of the children of a large Soufliote family during the Second World War. Dynamically and with a contemporary slant, artist Eleni Kotsoni renders both the cocoonery’s homely microcosm and the multitude of tasks required by domestic sericulture.