Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire –Gustav Mahler
Crafts are born from the skills of the people in the location they inhabit, using materials in their environment to narrate local stories and popular beliefs.
Craft is a way of engaging with our physical world.
Touch is an essential way of staying grounded.
As a teacher I witness the power of craft to enrich and excite people’s imaginations and quality of life. I believe in its power to communicate and be a catalyst for change. Art and craft are powerful generators for personal transformations. They provide improved self-esteem, a sense of belonging and improved economic states. With this comes the freedom to made decisions and the power to take one’s place in the world.
Globally the artisan sector is the second-largest employer in the developing world after agriculture. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world, particularly women, participate in the artisan sector. Artisan activity creates jobs, increases local incomes, and preserves ancient cultural traditions that in many places are at risk of being lost.
I just became aware of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, a list comprised by UNESCO of traditions that are in danger of becoming extinct. We’re not talking about monuments and collections of objects, but living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants. A category of particular interest to me is the knowledge and skill to produce traditional crafts, usually taught by mothers to their daughters.
The list for 2018 includes about 40 traditions that are in need of urgent safeguarding. Bobbin lacemaking in Slovenia. Shadow play in the Syrian Arab Republic. Tamboradas drum-playing rituals in Spain. Pottery skills of the women of Seinane in Tunisia….
It is alarming to think of age old rituals and practices being snuffed out forever, like an exotic bird species disappearing quietly and without notice. To lose these intangibles threatens our identities and the connection to our communities. It is particularly relevant now, in this age of xenophobia, that craft be the power to maintain cultural diversity, foster intercultural dialogue and encourage mutual respect for all ways of life.
A Mole Workshop with Estela Calzada, a part of Nibble: Global Eats by Local Peeps. Estela guided us through the multi step process of making her family Mole recipe. Spices were purchased from local Somerville markets and we spent the night grinding and sauteeing and then finally, eating. It was delicious. Nibble is a Somerville Arts Council initiative that celebrates cultural exchange, spurs cultural economic development & supports immigrant communities.
While traveling in Peru I had the pleasure of working with a few craftsmen in the Andean town of Ayacucho. Here I’m trying to carve a heart out of limestone. Not surprisingly, it is more difficult than it looks but the instructor shared his patience and good nature while I stumbled along. Peru is a country that recognizes the value of its craft heritage and embraces its artisans by developing organizations like the Ministry of Culture and others.