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Posts from the ‘Mathers Museum’ Category

Aboriginal Bark Painting from Northern Australia

Not long ago, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures opened three new early fall exhibitions. I was happy to be the curator for the smallest of these. It is titled Aboriginal Bark Painting from Northern Australia and it will be open until December 22, 2019. If you can get to Bloomington, I hope that you will check it out. Here is the postcard….

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“At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures”

I am happy to note the publication of a paper in Museum Anthropology reporting on, and considering, the work of two collaborative projects of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. This piece is: Jason Baird Jackson (2019) “At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.” Museum Anthropology 42 (2): 62-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/muan.12210

Experiments in collaboration are at the heart of contemporary museum anthropology and museum folklore. If you are interested in issues of collaboration in museums of ethnography and world cultures, take note of the upcoming Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) biannual meeting being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the theme of “Museums Different” (September 19-21, 2019). [I wish I could go!] Collaboration was also the theme of the recent conference that the MMWC co-hosted with its partners in Beijing. The program of that conference on “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” is available online on the American Folklore Society website (see Conference Seven here).

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I usually work hard not to publish behind a paywall. There were CMA-suporting reasons that I did so in this case. Be in touch if I can be of help on that score.

The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies

The following is a report on The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies (第七届中美民俗学与非物质文化遗产论坛: 博物馆民俗与遗产研究的协作工作). The version of record appears on the website of the American Folklore Society. This version adds more images. You can find a copy of the conference program here. –Jason Baird Jackson (杰森. 拜尔德. 杰克逊)

During three beautiful spring days in Beijing, a group of Chinese and American scholars and cultural workers gathered to discuss practices of collaboration in folklore studies and intangible cultural heritage work, with a focus on collaborations between ethnographic museums and between such museums and other groups in society. Held on May 19-22, 2019, this was the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, one of a long-running series of conferences organized cooperatively by the China Folklore Society (CFS) and the American Folklore Society (AFS), as part of a broader binational collaboration begun in 2007. These forums have explored various aspects of cultural heritage policy, practice, and theory, giving US and Chinese participants an opportunity to learn about the state of the field as pursued in the national context that is not their own (Lloyd 2017).

This Seventh Forum, focusing on Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, was held at the Indiana University China Gateway office in Beijing. Meeting under the auspices of the CFS and the AFS, the conference’s program was organized by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi (Guangxi Museum of Nationalities), with extensive logistical and practical support provided by the two societies and the gateway office staff. Generous financial support was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs at Indiana University.

Delegates to the forum came from a diversity of American and Chinese museums and universities. Chinese institutions represented included the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, Beijing Normal University, the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, East China Normal University, Fudan University, the Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Minzu University of China, Shandong University, and the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. American institutions represented included the Michigan State University Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, Texas Tech University, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Indiana University), History Miami, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (University of Oklahoma), and the American Folklore Society (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage held at the Indiana University Gateway Office in Beijing, May 19, 2019. Shu Caiqian (Guizhou Nationalities Museum), Zhang Yibing (Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Zhu Gang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Li Mingjie (East China Normal University), Wang Wei (Shandong University), Jessica Anderson Turner (American Folklore Society), An Deming (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Luo Wenhong (Fudan University), Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State University Museum), Surna (Minzu University of China), Kristin Otto (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Felicia Katz-Harris (Museum of International Folk Art), Sarah Hatcher (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Yang Lihui (Beijing Normal University), Lu Chaoming (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Chen Xi (Sun Yet-sen University), Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art), Chao Gejin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Wuerxiya (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Fan Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum), Yang Quanzhong (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), He Chun (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Michael Paul Jordan (Texas Tech University), Wu Dawei (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Ou Bo (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Michael Knoll (History Miami), Lan Yuanyuan (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Jon Kay (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Luo Yong (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Mai Xi (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Zhao Fei (Yunnan Nationalities Museum), Wang Yucheng (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi).

On the afternoon of May 19, the conference began with warm words of welcome from AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner and CFS Past President Chao Gajin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), standing in for current CFS President Ye Tao (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) who was unable to attend (Figure 2). Also offering brief opening remarks on behalf of the program committee were Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures) and Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) (Figure 3). These remarks preceded the forum’s keynote address by C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum). Extending an earlier discussion of principles for museum collaboration (Dewhurt and MacDowell 2015), Dewhurt reflected on a range of museum collaborations in which he and the MSU Museum have participated. Among the collaborations that Dewhurst addressed were earlier phases of the AFS-CFS partnership, which has included two museum sub-projects (2013-2016; 2017-2019). The first of these encompassed the Fifth and Sixth forum events, the traveling exhibition and bilingual catalogue Quilts of Southwest China (MacDowell and Zhang 2015), and numerous other elements (Lloyd 2017). In this phase, three Chinese museums and three US museums partnered together (Dewhurst and Lloyd 2019). In the more recent phase, collaborators from the three U.S. museums have joined with the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi for a program of joint research focused on textiles and intangible cultural heritage policy in two northern counties of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Central to this new phase of work are the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum. Thus, while Dewhurst’s keynote was a general reflection on museum collaboration, his presentation also served to orient conferees to the specific joint AFS-CFS supported projects that gave the forum its organizational context.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion in which representatives from the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum and Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum described their work and the community and organizational collaborations in which they participate (Figure 4). American participants appreciated this opportunity to learn about the innovative work of these ecomuseums first-hand and drew comparisons to various kind of community-based museums in the US. While Chinese delegates were more knowledgeable about the form that ecomuseums take in China, they also appreciated the chance to engage with the ecomuseum leaders directly in a comparative scholarly context.

It was an honor that many Beijing-based leaders in the CFS and in Chinese folklore studies overall could attend these opening events, which also included a welcoming banquet generously hosted by the CFS. This gathering was enlivened further when the leaders of the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum introduced both Dong flute music and toasting songs to the group. For many American delegates, this was a memorable first experience with the richness of Chinese banquet customs and the beauty of Dong music (Figure 5).

The second day of the conference was a full day featuring presentations from Chinese and American delegates. In line with the goals of the forum, the presenters described specific museum collaboration projects, using them as the basis for broader reflections on the work of museum ethnography and heritage studies today. Translation for most conference presentations was very ably done by Chen Xi (Sun Yat-sen University) and Luo Wenhong (Fudan University) (Figure 6). A number of themes emerged through the juxtaposition of presentations throughout the conference. These included: (1) the nature of museum-based ethnographic and exhibition projects in urban contexts, (2) the dynamics unique to heritage-oriented fieldwork pursued across differences of language, culture, and institutional context, (3) the place of objects and material culture studies within museum collaborations, (4) the use of exhibitions as catalysts for broader collaborations and relationship building, (5) the value of older museum collections for contemporary communities and craftspeople, (6) the place of documentary video in museum ethnography, and (7) the special importance that attaches to national folk costume in diverse museum and local cultural contexts in the current era (Figure 7).

The conference’s third day featured a morning of additional presentations followed by a special outing in which conferees visited Beijing’s Shichahai historic area to learn about cultural preservation and heritage tourism activities centered there (Figures 8-9). Participants enjoyed a hutong tour and a visit to the Drum Towner of Beijing (Gulou). While she could not attend the forum, this outing was curated by Zhang Lijun (George Mason University) and drew upon her folklore research interpreting the narrative performances of hutong tour guides (Zhang 2016, 2019). The conference concluded with a banquet, hosted by AFS and featuring Yunnan cuisine. Highpoints of this concluding gathering were many individual expressions of friendship and goodwill as well as a vigorous singing competition staged between the binational groups gathered around two large banquet tables. Heartfelt singing in Dong, Yao, Mandarin, Mongolian and English brought the seventh forum to a joyful close.

References Cited

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Timothy Lloyd. 2019. “The American Folklore Society-China Folklore Society Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, 2013-2016.” Museum Anthropology Review 13 (1): 59-68. https://doi.org/10.14434/mar.v13i1.25405

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Marsha MacDowell. 2015. “Strategies for Creating and Sustaining Museum-Based International Collaborative Partnerships.” Practicing Anthropology 37 (3): 54–55. https://doi.org/10.17730/0888-4552-37.3.54

Lloyd, Tim. 2017 “The Inside Story of the AFS China-US Project.” https://www.afsnet.org/news/349609/The-Inside-Story-of-the-AFS-China-US-Project.htm, accessed June 12, 2019.

MacDowell, Marsha, and Lijun Zhang, eds. 2016. 中国西南拼布 | Quilts of Southwest China. Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. [Distributed in the United States by Indiana University Press.]

Zhang, Lijun. 2016. “Performing Locality and Identity: Rickshaw Driver, Narratives, and Tourism.” Cambridge Journal of China Studies 11 (1): 88-104. https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/260292

Zhang, Lijun. 2019. “A Brief Guide to Shichahai.” Video Presentation Prepared for The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, Beijing, China.

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Figure 2. Figure 2. Chao Gajin welcomes delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 3. Figure 3. Gong Shiyang addresses delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 4. Wu Dawei offers remarks on the work of the Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum during the ecomuseum panel discussion. Left to Right: Lu Chaoming, He Chun, Lan Yuanyuan, Yang Quanzhong, Wu Dawei, Luo Wenhong (translating), Jason Baird Jackson. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 5. Wu Dawei performs Dong flute music at the opening banquet. May 19, 2019. Photograph by C. Kurt Dewhurst.

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Figure 6. Zhang Yibing discusses the work of the Guizhou Nationalities Museum with Luo Wenhong providing English translation.. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 7. Carrie Hertz discusses research related to the exhibition Dressing with Purpose. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 8. Surna discusses her research on Mongol national dress. May 21, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 9. Lan Yuanyuan and He Chun begin a rickshaw tour of the Shichahai neighborhood in Beijing. May 21, 2019. Photography by Jason Baird Jackson.

Help! Really. The Mathers Museum of World Cultures Needs You!

An Indiana University event known as #IUDay is nearly here. Scheduled for Wednesday, April 10, 2019, #IUDay is a celebration of Indiana University. It is a day of special events, of sharing stories of the university, and for gathering together friends and supporters to work together to achieve special goals. Last year, in the days right before, and on, #IUDay, sixty-one friends donated to the Mathers Museum’s first #IUDay crowdfunding campaign. Working together, they contributed funds to enable us to launch Traditional Arts Indiana’s Indiana Heritage Fellowship program. Ours was a successful first effort. It was so successful that the Indiana University Foundation encouraged us to take on two campaigns this year, a fact that means that we are seeking to raise more than double the level of funding we received last year. This is an exciting prospect, but it is also daunting. I hope that everyone who reads this post can help us meet our goals. They are good goals. Let me describe them.

Building on the success of last year’s effort launching the Indiana Heritage Fellowship program, we are this year seeking support for its companion program, also new. This is the TAI Master-Apprentice program. The goal here is $2500 and, as of the moment that I am writing this, we have raised $567 from 11 generous donors. With two days to go, we really need your help. Please consider making a gift large or small. Last year 61 donors supported our efforts and we are eager to (=need to) increase this number this year. The good news is that, when successful, this effort will do great work across Indiana communities, providing resources and support for diverse tradition bearers to transmit their skills and knowledge to eager apprentices. This work benefits Indiana communities, the state and ultimately the whole country. If you would like to learn about the first class of TAI masters and apprentices, check out this year’s booklet and learn about the beadwork artists, netmakers, drummakers, ironsmiths, and ballet folklórico performers working together this year.

To learn more and to, if you chose, make a contribution, you can find this campaign site here: https://iufoundation.fundly.com/support-the-next-great-folk-artists

Our other campaign aims to fund K-12 field trips to visit the Mathers Museum on campus in Bloomington. Field trips are an impactful highlight for most school students, but they have become increasingly rare for most students, as budget cuts continue to take their toll. Visits to the Mathers Museum introduce students to cultural diversity worldwide and in Indiana and the US. Museum visits also introduce students to the commonalities of the human experience and to the disciplines–folklore studies, anthropology, ethnomusicology, history, etc.–that build up our understandings of human existence, past and present. As of the time of this writing, this campaign has gathered $1220 from 18 friends of the museum. Here too our goal is $2500, thus we need your help in this effort also. (This funding will enable us to provide the funds that schools need in order to come to the museum and engage with our programs and exhibitions.

To learn more and to, if you chose, make a contribution, you can find this campaign site here: https://iufoundation.fundly.com/mathers-museum-of-world-cultures

Thanks to all who have given so far. Thanks to all who will consider giving. Whether you give or do not give, please, please share these links online and urge others to support the museum’s work. When an #IUDay link is shared online it results in an average of $97 dollars in support, so even if you cannot give $10 or more dollars now, you can help the museum and these worthy projects by spreading the word.

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Debra Bolaños (left), a ballet folklórico dancer and instructor in East Chicago, Indiana, and Harold Klosterkemper (right), a fiddle player from Decatur County, Indiana, will soon be honored for their lifetime achievement as Indiana traditional artists. They will be recognized as Indiana Heritage Fellows in a special ceremony on April 27, 2019. Learn more about the event here.

 

 

Museum Anthropology Review is a Teenager Now; New Issue is Now Out

Life got away from me last week and I still have more “Exhibition Week” posts to share, but today I turn attention to the new issue of MAR.

It is hard to believe but Museum Anthropology Review is now in its thirteenth year. If you are interested in a bit of how MAR got to this point and where it will be heading in the near term, you can check out the editorial that I wrote for the new issue, just out. You can find the whole issue, including my piece, online here: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/issue/view/1589. As always, MAR is not just free to readers but open access.

MAR is the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University’s museum of ethnography, ethnology, and cultural history. The new issue is particularly focused on reports recounting projects undertaken at the MMWC and by its partners, friends, and regular collaborators.

Three MMWC colleagues share projects that they led. Jon Kay tells the story of Traditional Arts Indiana’s exhibition for the Indiana Bicentennial, Emily Buhrow Rogers reflects on the Cherokee Craft, 1973 exhibition, and Kristin Otto discusses our museum’s projects relating to so-called Ghanaian fantasy coffins.

MMWC partners C. Kurt Dewhurst and Timothy Lloyd report on the larger Sino-US collaboration project that the MMWC has been an active participant in and Marsha Bol, another participant in that collaboration, shares background on a different project, her recent exhibition on beadwork at the Museum of International Folk Art. Regular MAR contributor Kerim Friedman is joined by his collaborator Gabrielle de Seta for a discussion of the Sensefield exhibition that they organized as a companion to the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival.

The issue concludes with a book review and an exhibition review by Otto. Both focus on innovative projects of special relevance to museum anthropology in African contexts.

Thanks go to the reviewers and others who helped with this issue behind the scenes. MAR’s transition to teenager status provides an opportunity to thank the librarians and library staff who have worked to support and encourage the journal since its beginnings. Thanks also to all of the graduate assistants who have worked on the journal over the years.

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A partial view of Museum Anthropology Review 13(1)

Exhibitions Week: Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (a.k.a. Quilts of Southwest China)

The MMWC has a huge amount of exhibition related news. This week I devote a series of posts to highlighting some of these developments.

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Huang Biyu introduces her work as a textile artist to visitors to the Yulin Museum, which is hosting the exhibition Quilting Art and Tradition–People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (the Chinese version of Quilts of Southwest China), March 16, 2019. (Photograph courtesy of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi)

After a U.S. tour that saw the collaboratively curated exhibition Quilts of Southwest China move from the (1) Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan, USA) to the (2) International Quilt Study Center and Museum (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), (3) the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Bloomington, Indiana, USA) and the (4) Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA), the exhibition is now at its third stop in China. Titled in China Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life, the exhibition has just opened at the (3) Yulin Museum (Yulin, Guangxi, PRC). It has previously been presented at the (1) Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (Nanning, Guangxi, PRC) and the (2) Yunnan Nationalities Museum (Kunming, Yunnan, PRC). The exhibition is one of several collaborative projects arising out of joint work supported generously by the Henry Luce Foundation and various other American and Chinese funding agencies. The American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society are coordinating partners for the larger effort that includes the museum partnership linking the Mathers Museum of World Cultures to the MSU Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Yunnan Nationalities Museum, the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi and the and the Guizhou Nationalities Museum (Guiyang, Guixzhou, PRC). The exhibition was jointly produced by the six museum partners and was co-curated by Lijun Zhang and Marsha MacDowell.

Colleagues from the three Chinese partner museums (AMGX, YNNM, GZMN) attended the exhibition opening in Yunlin as did featured textile artist Huang Biyu, who did an artist’s demonstration and worked with a large group of local students in an exploration of Chinese quilting design. Photographs from the opening events taken by Chu Chu and Li Jie of the AMGX are shared here.

Did you miss the exhibition or would you like to do a deeper dive into the world of minority textiles in Southwest China? The bilingual catalogue edited by Marsha MacDowell and Lijun Zhang is available from Indiana University Press. Find it on the press website here: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808361

Thanks to our friends at the AMGX for managing the Chinese tour of the jointly produced exhibition and thanks to the staff of the Yulin Museum for hosting it. It is tremendous to think that a jointly produced exhibition that first opened at the MSUM in 2015 is still traveling and reaching new audiences.

 

 

T̶h̶o̶u̶g̶h̶t̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶H̶A̶U̶. Good News! The Free-to-Readers Version of The Expressive Lives of Elders

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Good news everyone. The free-to-download-and-read version of the latest title in the Material Vernaculars series–The Expressive Lives of Elders: Folklore, Art, and Aging edited by Jon Kay is now available. While I hope that you will purchase an ebook edition or a paperback edition or a hardback edition of this great new book, or that you will use the JSTOR Books or Project Muse Books edition if you have access to such from a library with which you are affiliated, it is important to make sure that everyone who needs to access this significant work can do so, hence the importance of durable (its not going to be withdrawn), free access to everyone. Remember, if you can purchase a copy or use one of the toll access, library-supported versions, you are helping Indiana University Press generate the financial resources to continue investing in free and/or open access projects such as the Material Vernaculars series.

How do you access it? Go to https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/22075 and look for the “View/Open button. That will lead you to the PDF download.

Find all of the existing Material Vernaculars titles in free PDF format here: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/21727 Find them described and ready to buy here: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/index.php?cPath=1037_3130_10392&CDpath=3_5

If you value the work that Indiana University Press does, consider making a donation to support its work or, just browse the press’s website and purchase some great books and journals.

As I prepare this post, the Press is having a 40% off sale!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations to Jon and to all of the authors who contributed to The Expressive Lives of Elders. Thanks to the peer-reviewers, to everyone who has already purchased a copy, and to everyone at the IU Press, the IU Libraries, and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures who is supporting the Material Vernaculars series so enthusiastically.

Happy reading!

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Google Celebrates Native Artist in November 9th Doodle

A guest post by Emily Buhrow Rogers.

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A carved bear by Amanda Crowe (Eastern Band Cherokee) from the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University. ca. 1973. Museum purchase. 7″ x 2″ x 4.75″ (1973-19-002)

In honor of Native American Heritage month, Google today celebrated renowned Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artist, Amanda Crowe (1928-2004). Born and raised on North Carolina’s Qualla Boundary, Amanda Crowe is perhaps best known for her fluid and expressive animal carvings, which have been collected and praised by museums and art galleries across North America. She is also famous as an educator. After training at the Art Institute of Chicago, she returned to North Carolina and took up a post as studio art teacher at Cherokee High School. Here, she trained hundreds of students from her community in the art of woodcarving and influenced generations of Cherokee artists. The Mathers Museum of World Cultures collected several of her works and displayed them in the 2015-2016 exhibition, “Cherokee Craft, 1973.” Her bear sculptures instantly became staff favorites. (Here is a screenshot from the Doodle. Here is a link to the Doodle video. https://youtu.be/Je2du-WEnPQ

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The Doodle video was made in cooperation with Amanda Crowe’s nephew, William “Bill” H. Crowe, Jr., and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, from whom the Mathers Museum of World Cultures obtained its Cherokee collection in 1973.

Emily Buhrow Rogers is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at Indiana University, where she is also a research associate of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. She was the curator of the museum’s exhibition Cherokee Craft, 1973. Her dissertation research focuses on craft and environmental knowledge among the Choctaw people of Mississippi.

A Gallery Talk at Sam Noble Museum in Conjunction with the Putting Baskets to Work in Southwest China Exhibition

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I will be doing a gallery talk at the Sam Noble Museum on Sunday, June 24 at 2:00 pm in the Higginbotham Gallery, which is where the exhibition Putting Baskets to Work in Southwest China is now on display.

Information on the event is available here: http://samnoblemuseum.ou.edu/calendar/gallery-talk-collecting-baskets-in-south-west-china/

The exhibition is discussed here: http://samnoblemuseum.ou.edu/permanent-exhibits/current-exhibits/

Everyone is welcome! Anyone who loves, for instance, river cane baskets (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, etc.) will enjoy seeing these bamboo work baskets.

 

The Mallet: Making a Maul in a Baiku Yao Community

This guest post by Jon Kay, Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures provides Jon with the opportunity to share the first of the documentary videos arising from work that he and colleagues pursued together in Nandan County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in December, 2017. It is the final post in a eleven-part series relating to travel in China and specific work in Nandan County that began with a post on January 2, 2018 and continued most recently through post 9, a guest post by Carrie Hertz of the Museum of International Folk Art. These earlier posts are accessible here 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

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Lu Bingzhao uses a billhook to make a wooden mallet or maul. December 15, 2017. Photograph by Kurt Dewhurst.

I was in Southwest China as part of a joint team of researchers from the United States, the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi, and the Nandan Baiku Yao Eco-Museum who were documenting basket and textile traditions of the Baiku Yao people in Nandan County, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Our team visited a home in Manjiang village to inventory the baskets collected and used by a local family. As the fieldworkers worked photographing and measuring baskets, Mr. Lu Bingzhao came into the house and picked up a mallet, which he showed everyone and then went outside. I did not speak Mandarin or the local Baiku Yao dialect, but I felt he had something he wanted to show us. I went outside and saw him lay the mallet on the trunk of small felled tree in order to get a rough measurement; it was then that I realized he was going to make a mallet. I grabbed my camera and began shooting. I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I didn’t expect to shoot the entire process, but I became enthralled with how the elder worked. Two of his grandchildren played nearby, and they often stopped to watch him work and to interact with him.  Neighbors and family members stopped by to visit as they returned home from picking greens.  Mr. Bingzhao worked steadily as people came and went. He was skilled at using the billhook. With heavy chops, he used the hook to quickly remove the excess wood. Then he delicately shaved the mallet’s handle smooth, using a pulling motion. Finally at the end of the video, just as he completes the mallet, he gives it to his daughter-in-law. Tree became tool and gift in little more than an hour.

I was told that mallets, like the one made in this video, are commonly used to pound rice straw for sandals and to set the poles for warping a loom, the later activity I witnessed the next day when a group of weavers came to the Nandan Baiku Yao Eco-Museum office, where I was staying. I am sure the mallet probably has many other uses in the daily life of the community. For sure, the young woman would find utility in the gift. This video was totally unplanned, as the shaky recording and odd camera angles reveal, but I was compelled to edit this footage into this short portrait, to document the making of this tool. Reflecting reoccurring themes in my scholarship, it also demonstrates how craft can connect an elder to his family and community.”

 

 

 

 

Technical Note: The video was shot with a Canon 80D camera with a RØDE stereo microphone attached to the camera’s hot-shoe mount.

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