The stories behind what we make. Over a five year journey of the Indo-Pacific, we explore beautiful and thoughtful objects. What do these objects tell us about our world today? We see a striking revival of ancient traditions that re-orients us to the future.
Kuwaiti designer Laila Al Hamad speaks about the meaning of smell in Arab cultures and how it connects people together.
One of the enduring themes of our journey is the meaning of ephemeral objects. We tend to see value in objects of lasting worth - as artefacts that survive millennia to rest in our museum shelves, or works that can be collected for their artistic value. But when we look at the kinds of objects that have meaning in the wider world, they are often of fleeting presence. We can look no further than the garland itself, as an object woven together with flowers that will last only a couple of days. What worth can that be? Here we need to consider other cultural contexts, like the value of offerings.
In this podcast, we look at perhaps the most ephemeral substance - smell. What is the possible worth of objects related to smell, such as incense, perfume or soap? We explore this Laila Al-Hamad, a Kuwaiti designer who has previously shared her story on Garland about the fraught nature of craft in the Gulf.
Poetry and images referred to by Laila can be found here.
We talk to Dylan Rogers about his discovery of the true significance of the garlands that feature in Pompeii murals.
Pompeii offers a snapshot of Roman life in 79AD. It reveals the prevalence of murals, not just as decoration, but as instructions for living. As part of his investigation of "lived religion" in Roman times, archeologist Dylan Rogers uncovered the real purpose of these garlands.
The inclusion of painted garlands on walls is an enduring reminder to individuals and the community that garland-giving is a vital part of the veneration of the deities depicted in that space.
This discovery emphasises the true meaning of garlands as "living" objects that help maintain cultural order. This is a challenge for our understanding of art as made of fixed objects that live separate from life in galleries and museums.
Visit this world of ancient Rome with Dylan Rogers.
Rogers, Dylan. 2020. “The Hanging Garlands of Pompeii: Mimetic Acts of Ancient Lived Religion.” Arts & Health 9 (2): 65.
Maikel Kuijpers an Assistant Professor of the Archaeology of Early Europe at Leiden University as well as a research coordinator for the Centre of Global Heritage and Development, a collaboration between Technical University Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Leiden University.
Kuijpers is a key thinker in what has been called the "material turn", in which knowledge is seen not just as an abstraction to be housed in books, but also something embodied in materials and things that resides in our hands. His book, An Archaeology of Skill (2017), argues that to understand objects of the bronze age, we need to account for the experience of the metalsmith in dialogue with materials.
We cover in particular the video Kuijpers produced in Cambridge, The Future is Handmade, which advocated for the renewed value of craft in trades. Why would an archeologist make a film about a contemporary tailor?
Ashoke Chatterjee is an Indian craft leader. He was executive director of National Institute of Design (NID) from 1975-85, Senior Faculty Advisor for Design Management and Communication from 1985 to 1995, and Distinguished Fellow at NID from 1995 until retirement in 2001.
In 1975, NID was invited to be involved with the Rural University, a new concept in education and rural development initiated by Professor Ravi Matthai, first director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. Ashoke Chatterjee became part of the Rural University team that worked with people of the Jawaja block, which included about 200 villages with a population of approximately 80,000 people in a drought prone district of Rajasthan.
Ashoke Chatterjee shares his journey and reflects on the secret behind the success of the Jawaja project. He concludes with a rousing call to heed the message of Gandhiji in protecting the poor who have been betrayed by the lure of urbanisation and now face a long and hard journey back to their village and possible starvation.
You can read his Garland article here.
Our latest podcast interview with leading craft scholars includes Chandan Bose, whose study of naqqash artisans in Telangana reveals the rich social world of this narrative art form.
There is a new generation of craft scholars who seek to work in partnership with artisans. Chandan Bose recently published book on patam art in Telangana is very much a conversation a naqqash artist, Vaikuntam. The book is a very thorough account of this graphic art, along with the complex social relations it involves. But Bose also reflects on the active role played by Vaikuntam in leveraging ethnography to promote his caste. As he quotes Vaikuntam, “It is only because you are asking these questions that I am telling all of this.”
As part of our series of podcasts on leading craft scholars, we interviewed Chandan Bose about the path that led to Vaikuntam and the issues it raised. We learn about how the plight of Gond folk artists prompted his concern about the role and value of the artisan in contemporary India. He reflects on the value of formalised heritage structures such as Geographic Indicators and future challenges to be explored.
Chandan Bose is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. His work focuses on the meaning of work and livelihood, and ways of knowledge production and sharing among skilled communities. His first monograph Conversations Around Craft (2019) is an ethnographic study of a household of artisans in Telangana, who share their experience of making ‘crafts’ and of being ‘craftspersons’ in contemporary India. He is currently working with second-generation artisans in urban India to understand how inheritance, technology and urbanization help shape visions of a future.
See Garland magazine for more details and images.
Bose, Chandan. 2019. Perspectives on Work, Home, and Identity From Artisans in Telangana: Conversations Around Craft. Springer.
Object-tellers from our current issue came together to reflect on their stories and consider some of the issues that they evoke, particularly about the Indian craft of love. The speakers were:
Shirley Bhatnagar and Ishan Khosla
This fascinating discussion brought together voices from Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and “Mumbai of the South” (Melbourne). The consensus seemed to be that Indian culture was more diverse before colonisation. During the British Empire and subsequent modernity, the distinctions between caste and gender became more rigid. Today, artists and makers have the potential to use the rich traditions of love as tools to open spaces for bringing people together.
See our Uphaar issue here.
We go to Kochi, the ancient port city in the southern tip of India, to visit its most renowned historian, Bony Thomas, who features in our current issue Uphaar with an article about the history of the Jewish populations in the city and its touching presence today with the young Muslim man, Taha Ibrahim, who continues the tradition of Jewish embroidery taught him by his adopted mother, Sarah Cohen. Bony Thomas shares his rich knowledge of this Indian-Jewish culture with it's many Romeo and Juliet love stories that give a personal dimension to India's unique mix of faiths. We're sitting in an old Dutch home, overlooking a busy intersection, in the days before our current lockdown.
See the original story here: https://garlandmag.com/article/jewtown/
Craft travel packages are booming. As well as companies offering specialist tours of craft centres, many practitioners are sharing their local knowledge and contacts with specialist travel packages.
Such tours can have many benefits. For the participants, they help deepen their appreciation of the crafts through the immersive experience of place. As has been the case with pilgrimages in the past, these exceptions from daily routine can give overall meaning to the shape of a life. For the hosts, these visits can be an important source of recognition and pride in their community. There’s also the material benefit of sales and sometimes fees for entertaining guests.
But there are also questions raised. What are the basic ethical principles that should be followed during craft travel? As we move into the “experience economy”, people seem to be buying less and valuing more what can be shared with family and friends. Should artisans expect to be paid for a visit or does this contradict the core value of hospitality?
Listen to our discussion, featuring:
Swadha Sonu and Gopesh Singh from Kamalan Travel
Fiona Wright from Pushkar, Rajasthan
This was recorded on Tuesday 29 October 2019.
Genevieve Weber follows up her article Gratitude in the Archives with an account of how she became an archivist and the role that "radical empathy" plays in her custodianship of historical Canadian documents. We learn about the history of Residency Schools and the resulting Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
We talk with Aarti Kawlra, author of We Who Wove the Lotus Thread, about her intellectual journey in the crafts and the development of a pan-Asian sensibility. Kawlra reflects on the nature of caste in India as a social construction. She also talks about the "kimono body" and how textiles in Asia are objects in themselves rather than body accessories as in the West. Finally, she reflects on the changes of craft discourse, from the talk of civilisations in the early twentieth century, with writers such as Okakura Tenshin and Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, which evolved into talk about authenticity during the time of neoliberal reform in the last twentieth-century, which is now more closely tied to the market with tourism and heritage marketing. You can read her article in Garland here.
Rosie Cook reflects on the story behind her article Lessons learned from a duck herder’s gamelan. She recounts her journey to become a conservator and how this was radically changed by her encounter will villagers in Wonosobo, Indonesia. Her story also reveals a surprising capacity of Instagram.
22 June 2019, National Gallery of Victoria
This panel was an opportunity to learn from those who are engaged with China as artists or curators.
What are the challenges in connecting with audiences in mainland China?
What opportunities make the effort worthwhile?
How can we maintain contact with the Chinese scene from Australia?
Yiwei Wu – Founder of Yiwei Art Foundation and SanW Gallery in Shanghai
Vicki Mason – jewellery artist in residence at San W Studio and SIVA Artist Residency Project
Robin Best – Australian ceramicist working in Jingdezhen
Philip Faulks – Melbourne paper cut artist
Wilson Yeung Chun Wai – Creative Events Manager, Museum of Chinese Australian History
Conversation between dragons
Saturday 22 June 2019
This panel explores the creative substance of a dialogue with China. As a nation that seeks to revive its traditional culture, how does this parallel the trajectory of nations around the Pacific Rim? We learn from the dragons not only in China but also in Mexico, Australia and India. Do they still have a place in our lives? Does their relation to unpredictable weather help us acknowledge the reality of climate change? Are there other ancient beliefs that may have a renewed relevance today?
Mitraja Bais – specialist in Indian craft and culture
Tyson Yunkaporta – Senior Lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University and member of the Apalech clan (west cape)
Yunuen Perez – Mexican-born, Melbourne-based production designer and weaver
Mae Anna Pang – ex-curator of Asian art, National Gallery of Victoria
Tammy Wong Hulbert – Chinese-Australian artist and lecturer at RMIT University
We chat with Brian Parkes, CEO of Adelaide's Jam Factory Craft & Design Centre, about an ambitious series of touring exhibitions that have helped define Australian craft and design in the 21st century.