In Niçois tradition, the gourd brings good luck. There’s even an old proverb that says, “A home without a gourd is like an empty nest.” If your home is currently “gourdless”, Morgan Barbier can help you remedy that situation. His stand in Nice’s Cours Saleya evening market is lined with luck-bringing gourds that have been transformed into eye-catching lamps.
These aren’t just any gourds though; they are cougourdons, a particular type of gourd that holds a very special place in Niçois culture. There is even a festival in honor of this good luck symbol every spring.
This gourd that is now completely intertwined with Niçois culture was introduced to the region around the sixteenth century. It proved to be very useful because when it dries it becomes almost like wood and is waterproof. At first, it was used to make thermoses for water or wine, and made into all sorts of kitchen utensils. It was even made into musical instruments. Then in the 1800s these gourds started to be decorated and sold to the new wave of winter tourist who were starting to arrive in Nice – even Queen Victoria is said to have bought a few. Now, thanks to one enterprising young man, the Niçois cougourdon has found yet another function, one that is both useful and decorative, Morgan Barbier’s “Luminice” lamps.
Morgan is Niçois by birth and was raised amidst the local traditions and festivals. From his youth he was fascinated by the cougourdon and its various shapes. Then one day he had a bright idea – why not make a cougourdon lamp? He made a few and they caught people’s attention – especially the Niçois who appreciated a new use for their beloved gourd. He started to participate in the festin des cougourdons, (the local gourd festival), then the Christmas markets, and now, during the summer, he can be found in Nice’s Cours Saleya evening market.
Morgan’s cougourdon creations are called “Luminices” and are the work of a true artisan. He raises his own organically-grown gourds, dries them (which can take up to 5 months), then creates the designs. Decorating one gourd can take from 3-10 hours depending on the complexity of the design, and if you would like a personalized lamp, he can do that as well.
This self-taught gourd artist is guided by his passion for the oddly-shaped cougourdon. His zeal is evident when he tells visitors to his stand about the history of the plant and its importance in the Niçois culture. He has also conducted workshops in schools to teach children about his beloved gourd. Morgan is one of those lucky people who has been able to turn his passion into his profession.
Is your home still “gourdless”? Could you use a bit of good luck? If you’re in Nice, go to the Cours Saleya market one evening and see Morgan for an updated version of a Niçois classic.
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