Monday, December 10, 2012

Crafting as an Integral Method of Cultural Preservation

United States map of world flags

We live in the United States of America; known as a true “melting-pot” of race, and more importantly, of culture.  This country maintains an identity vastly different from any other nation, which is in part, due to the fact that a limitless number of cultures are allowed to merge here.  Traditions are passed down from ancestors who traveled over land and sea to make a new life here, while bringing the comforts of home with them.  They brought tradition in the form of skills and memories, the knowledge to reproduce the familiar sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of their upbringing.  Among these traditions are the crafts unique to a particular culture.  These crafts and activities helped allow the formation of smaller communities within the area as a whole, bringing together people of a similar cultural background within the U.S.

Navajo (Native American tribe) kachina dolls
Crafting and culture have very strong ties to each other.  Culture is often inspiration for craft, and craft is an often accurate way to identify cultural background.  Native American tribes each express their unique culture through crafts such as intricate beaded clothing, feather endowed dream catchers, and painted kachina dolls.  When a person looks upon one of these items, perhaps they may not know which tribe the item represents, but they can often immediately identify the item broadly as “Native American”.

Traditional Indian block-print quilt
Quilting and woodworking are both very popular crafts among women and men, respectively.  Both of these are useful tools in identifying cultural heritage.  Both crafts have indistinct origins worldwide, and as such, both crafts utilize many varieties of production methods, materials, and styles.  The particular method of stitching, pattern, or type of material a quilt is composed of, can trace the style back to a particular culture.  For instance, Indian quilt-work (as seen to the right) will be distinctly different from a Native American quilt, or the various styles of quilting seen across Europe, and the Mediterranean.

Traditional Japanese furniture embraces minimalistic style
Likewise, the type of wood used, or the particular method of construction, can often help to determine the cultural heritage of the craftsman who produced it, as these crafts are often part of a cultural tradition passed down over many generations.  Each person may put their own individual touches on their work, but many fundamental elements remain, sometimes unchanging over thousands of years.

This is why crafting, although no longer a necessity for survival, still remains a necessity for preservation of culture and identity.  Just as we use crafts as a way to trace the evolution of culture throughout history, so will those who look back on us from future generations.

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