30 September 2011

Warli et Mithilâ

Name: Warli et Mithilâ 
Dates: From 6th July 2011 
Place: 405, Promenade des Anglais, Arenas, Nice (France) 
Webpage: www.arts-asiatiques.com 
Ethnic Paintings. Naive art and colorful women of North India.
These Indian paintings are exhibited on the first floor and are part of the donation of Mr. and Mrs. Hans Herrli. In love with India, they have made this collection during their multiple trips to India. The selected works are representative of a part of the Warli art and other art in the region of Mithila.
The Warli tribe has a population of about 300,000 members and live in Maharashtra, north of Mumbai (Bombay). The name comes from warla, which means a parcel of land. They have their own mode of belief, life and custom.
Their pictorial art was discovered in the seventies. Although there is no precise information on the exact origins of this art, Warli painting is a continuation of a tradition whose origins are between 2500 and 3000 BC. It is the expression of daily and social life of the tribe. The Warli used to paint the walls of their houses, and this was the only means of transmission because their dialect is not written. The paintings are only done on very rare occasions such as marriage or crops.
Iconography is very rudimentary and is based on the circle (the sun), the triangle (the mountain) and the square (the sacred enclosure). The paintings depict scenes of hunting, fishing and cultures, festivals and dances.
The Warli use only white colour, made from a mixture of rice paste, water and gum binder. The paint is applied using a previously chewed stick at its end to give it a flexibility comparable to that of a brush.

The paintings of Mithila or Madhubani derive their name from Mithila region in Bihar. They were traditionally made by village women who decorated the walls of freshly plastered mud houses, at weddings and religious ceremonies.
The paintings represent Hindu deities. We find therefore illustrations of Krishna, Rama, Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. All spaces are decorated with geometric and natural elements like flowers or animals.
The art of contemporary painting of Mithila was born in the early sixties after the terrible famine in Bihar. The paintings on paper or canvas have been used to supplement income. This is how this art was discovered and brought to the West. The paintings use natural pigments and bamboo sticks instead of the brush.

© Text and image: Musée des Arts Asiatiques

28 September 2011

Carlos Castaneda

Carlos Castaneda, ETHNIKKA blog for human cultures knowledge
Carlos Castaneda (1925 - 1998) 
Carlos (César Salvador Arana) Castaneda (anglicized from Castañeda; 25 December 1925 – 27 April 1998) was a Peruvian-born American anthropologist and author.
Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his training in sorcery. The books, narrated in the first person, relate his experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui "Man of Knowledge" named don Juan Matus. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.
Castaneda withdrew from public view in 1973 to work further on his inner development, living in a large house with three women ("Fellow Travellers of Awareness") who were ready to cut their ties to family and changed their names. He founded Cleargreen, an organization that promoted tensegrity, purportedly a traditional Toltec regimen of spiritually powerful exercises.

His works 
Castaneda's first three books — The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge; A Separate Reality; and Journey to Ixtlan — were written while Castaneda was an anthropology student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He wrote these books as his research log describing his apprenticeship with a traditional "Man of Knowledge" identified as don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian from northern Mexico. Castaneda was awarded his bachelor's and doctoral degrees based on the work described in these books. He also says the sorcerer bequeathed him the position of nagual, or leader of a party of seers. He also used the term nagual to signify that part of perception which is in the realm of the unknown yet still reachable by man, implying that, for his party of seers, Don Juan was a connection in some way to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as nonordinary reality, which indicated that this realm was indeed a reality, but radically different from the ordinary reality experienced by human beings.
The term nagual has been used by anthropologists to mean a shaman or sorcerer who is believed capable of shapeshifting into an animal form, or to metaphorically "shift" into another form through magic rituals, shamanism and experiences with psychoactive drugs (e.g., peyote and jimson weed - Datura stramonium).
In 1974 his fourth book, Tales of Power, was published. This book ended with Castaneda leaping from a cliff into an abyss, and signaled the end of his apprenticeship under the tutelage of Matus. Castaneda continued to be popular with the reading public with subsequent publications.

© Text and photo: Wikipedia

26 September 2011

Tarahumaran Tesgüino

Tesgüino is a corn beer made by the Tarahumara Indians of Sierra Madre in Mexico. The Tarahumara regard the beer as sacred, and it forms a significant part of their society. Anthropologist John Kennedy reports that "the average Tarahumara spends at least 100 days per year directly concerned with tesgüino and much of this time under its influence or aftereffects".
The general Tarahumara term for an alcoholic beverage is "Sugíki"; "batári" is used when the beer is specifically made from corn or lichen flour; "paciki" is used when the beer is made from fresh corn stalks. While tesgüino made from corn is considered the most sacred, the Tarahumara also make beer from agave and wheat, as well as other alcoholic beverages made from fruits such as peaches, berries, crab apples, cactus fruits, and Mesquite seeds.

From the NPR Radio Programme:
For the Tarahumara, the astringent, homemade corn beer is a sacred social lubricant — and during Easter week, or "semana santa," the entire town of Norogachi turns into a giant brewpub. Corn kernels are soaked, ground up, boiled and spiked with a local grass to help the mixture ferment.
The Tarahumara (who refer to themselves as the Raramuri) are a linguistic group of 120,000 who share a common language and have preserved their culture through isolation and resistance. For them, beer is an elixir for healing, a barter item and a divine beverage.
"God taught the Raramuri how to make corn beer," says Guadalupe Espino Palma, the traditional governor of the Norogachi district. "We make offerings of tesguino to God himself, and He drinks it also. We use tesguino for dancing, and we enjoy drinking it." Even getting drunk is a spiritual act, he explains.
Bill Merrill, a Smithsonian Institution anthropologist who's spent 30 years studying and working with the Tarahumara, says the tesguino chases out the "large souls" within, leaving only the "little souls." "And so when people get drunk that's why they act like children," he says, "Because the souls that are controlling their actions are the little souls, like little children."
The Raramuri also believe they are God's chosen people, and that their mountain home is the center of the world. In their colorful parades and festivals, they freely use Christian iconography to represent the struggle between the Raramuri and the outside world.
Still, the outside world is slowly creeping into traditional life — looking for work in the cities, modern comforts can be seductive. "It's easier to get drunk on a couple of beers or a bottle of tequila than to make tesguino and share it with everyone," says Carlos Palma Batista, director of the Raramuri Education Initiative, a Ford Foundation project to help preserve native language and knowledge.
The Easter celebrations of the Raramuri are a big draw for tourists. By custom, participants will drink, dance, drum and carouse for as long as the tesguino holds out, whether two days or two weeks. Spring planting will wait.
And during this corn beer communion, in place of "happy Easter," the Raramuri will say to one another "bosasa" — "fill up, be satisfied, be contented."

  • 8 quarts water
  • 1 pound germinated corn
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 8 whole allspice or cloves
  • ale yeast
How to prepare it:
To germinate corn, soak 2 pounds of corn in cold water for 24 hours, then transfer it to a colander for germination. Spray cold water on the corn and turn it in the colander twice a day to prevent it from drying out or getting moldy. Within 5 days, the corn should have germinated to the point that sprouts have reached 2 inches in length. When they do, remove the corn from the colander and allow it to dry in the sun or in the oven on its lowest setting.
Crush the corn coarsely then place it in the brewpot with the water and let it sit for 1 hour.
Bring the wort to a boil, then add the sugar.
Reduce the heat and allow the wort to simmer for 3 hours stirring regularly.
Add the spices at the and of the boil and allow the wort to sit for 1 hour.
Strain the wort into a fermenter once cool and pitch the yeast.
Ferment at 65º-70ºF for 5 days, then rack to a secondary and allow to ferment for 2 more weeks.
Bottle with 1 teaspoon corn sugar per bottle for priming and allow to condition for 2 weeks before drinking.

© Text and image: www.npr.org, Wikipedia, Stephen Harrod Buhner's "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers" (Siris Books, 1998)

24 September 2011


Guelwaar film review, by Ousmane Sembene, Ethnikka blog for cultural knowledge
Title: Guelwaar 
Year: 1992 
Director: Ousmane Sembène 
Writer: Ousmane Sembène 
Running time: 115 minutes   
Country: Senegal 
Plot summary:
Burial of a Christian political activist in a Muslim cemetery forces a conflict imbued with religious fervor. A satiric portrayal of religion and politics, sometimes humorous, sometimes deadly serious.
Guelwaar is a very accessible introduction to the often difficult delights of African cinema. Like Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray, Sembene has often been patronised as a non-Western director making films for Western audiences. And certainly, the film is full of elaborate, didactic speeches - about military, police and civic corruption; first world imperialism etc. - that play like lectures to the uninformed, and would presumably seem like statements of the obvious to indigenous viewers.
Unlike many African films, which are driven by myth, imagery, allegory, or the tropes of oral culture, 'Guelwaar' is reassuringly structured in a way familiar to Westerners. As in a film by Costa-Gavras, a detective story plot is used to uncover wider truths about the country's social and political framework.
There are three interrelated detective stories in the film: where is the missing corpse of the title hero (which translates as 'The Noble One'), a revered dissident fomenting opposition to local corruption and first world neo-imperialism?; how did Guelwaar die - if he was killed, who murdered him?; who was Guelwaar the man anyway?
As in Costa-Gavras, the film's initial focus on the local immediately implicates the national. The first detective story - about the corpse - reveals the deep religious hostilities in the country. Guelwaar was a Christian in a largely Muslim society; when it's discovered that his body was, due to an administrative blunder (a mordantly cynical piece of satire), buried in an Islamic graveyard, the dead Muslim's people refuse to 'desecrate' the cemetery, and return the body.
Most of the movie is taken up with the stand-off of the two peoples in which blind intransigence quickly gives way to a violence which is only neutered when the army are called in. It is unclear whether this is a justification for military visibility - the chief policeman is one of the few sane, non-corrupt characters in the film. Much is made of the irony that each clan proclaims the authenticity of a religion originating thousands of miles away.
The second detective story - who killed Guelwaar - again takes the narrative away from the local. It is clear that Guelwaar was a threat to local and international interests, both politically and religiously - at a ceremony celebrating the receipt of foreign aid, he delivers an incendiary speech denouncing his country's craven dependence on others. It is hard to disagree - none of the strong men in the area seem to do any work, the lands remain unharvested; civic dignitaries line their pockets, and their daughters become bread-winning prostitutes at a socially convenient distance. This is a pleasant, anti-Catch-22 state of affairs - the first world retain virtual power after colonialism; the locals get rich. Guelwaar is in serious danger of disrupting it. He has to be wiped out.
This is all very instructive in an educational kind of way, but would be rather dull as film drama in itself. There is a real thrill (and a kind of horror) when the foreign aid van is seized, its supplies sabotaged and trod on, but agit-prop as hagiography can be rather unpalatable. The third detective story complicates this. Who was Guelwaar? He was certainly an inspiring, charismatic, articulate leader. But he was also a bullying patriarch who diminished his wife and was quite content for his daughter to whore herself for his dinner.
Unlike most political films, which can be very macho, Sembene records female experience in such a society, in which rigid social and religious rules keep women at home while their men fornicate freely. Although the film ends with Guelwaar the heroic, the progression of the four flashbacks is more difficult. The first suggests his involvement in thuggish political violence. The second shows his contempt for his wife and family responsibilities. The third shows his taste for 'freedom' was more sexual than political. Only in the fourth do we get any idea of Guelwaar's nominal nobility, by which time our taste for rhetoric, as opposed to action, has worn thin. Surely the idea that two peoples, adhering to foreign religions, and fighting over a corpse, is irony enough.
So far, so Western. This narrative has other familiar trajectories - the uniting of a scattered family; the power and role of language, colonial and local; the transformation of a Western-educated son into a Senegalese patriot. The satire of bureaucracy and corruption can be very funny. The great pleasure of 'Guelwaar', however, are its digressions from the narrative, when it slows down to record a way of life, even in extremis; the mish mash of rites (tribal, Christian/Islamic); the colourful clothes and murals, the music.

© Text and image: Wikipedia and Alice Liddel

22 September 2011

The Peoples of Vanuatu

John Frum, Vanuatu, ETHNIKKA blog for human culture knowledge
Name: Vanuatu (New Hebrides
Living Area: Vanuatu Islands (former New Hebrides)
Population: 240.000
Language: Bislama
The Republic of Vanuatu (French: République de Vanuatu, Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 500 kilometres (310 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. Europeans discovered the islands in 1605 with the arrival of a Spanish expedition led by Fernandes de Queirós in Espiritu Santo. In the 1880s France and the United Kingdom claimed parts of the country, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides through a British-French Condominium. An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was created in 1980.
The nation's name was derived from the word vanua ("land" or "home"), which occurs in several Austronesian languages, and the word tu ("stand"). Together the two words indicated the independent status of the new nation.

Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional variations and through foreign influence. Vanuatu may be divided into three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by how much one can give away. Pigs, particularly those with rounded tusks, are considered a symbol of wealth throughout Vanuatu. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has developed.
Young men undergo various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to initiate them into manhood, usually including circumcision.
Most villages have a nakamal or village clubhouse which serves as a meeting point for men and as a place to drink kava. Villages also have male and female-only sections. These sections are situated all over the villages; in nakamals, special spaces are provided for females when they are in their menstruation period.
The traditional music of Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas of Vanuatu. Musical instruments consist mostly of idiophones: drums of various shape and size, slit gongs, as well as rattles, among others. Another musical genre that has become widely popular during the 20th century in all areas of Vanuatu, is known as string band music. It combines guitars, ukulele, and popular songs.
The cuisine of Vanuatu (aelan kakae) incorporates fish, root vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Most island families grow food in their gardens, and food shortages are rare. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains, and sweet potatoes are abundant through much of the year. Coconut milk and cream are used to flavor many dishes. Most food is cooked using hot stones or through boiling and steaming; very little food is fried.

Known for their Cargo Cult:
A cargo cult is a religious practice that has appeared in many traditional pre-industrial tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures. The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth (the "cargo") of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals and practices. Cult members believe that the wealth was intended for them by their deities and ancestors. Cargo cults developed primarily in remote parts of New Guinea and other Melanesian and Micronesian societies in the southwest Pacific Ocean, beginning with the first significant arrivals of Westerners in the 19th century.
Cargo cult activity in the Pacific region increased significantly during and immediately after World War II, when the residents of these regions observed the Japanese and American combatants bringing in large amounts of material. When the war ended, the military bases closed and the flow of goods and materials ceased. In an attempt to attract further deliveries of goods, followers of the cults engaged in ritualistic practices such as building crude imitation landing strips, aircraft and radio equipment, and mimicking the behaviour that they had observed of the military personnel operating them.
Over the last sixty-five years, most cargo cults have disappeared. However, some cargo cults are still active including:
The John Frum cult on Tanna island (Vanuatu)
The Tom Navy cult on Tanna island (Vanuatu)
The Prince Philip Movement on Tanna island (Vanuatu)
Yali's cargo cult on Papua New Guinea (Madang-region)
The Paliau movement on Papua New Guinea (Manus island)
The Peli association on Papua New Guinea
The Pomio Kivung on Papua New Guinea

An example of a Cargo Cult is the John Frum Cult:
The religion centering around John Frum arose in the late 1930s, when Vanuatu was known as the New Hebrides. The movement was heavily influenced by existing religious practice in the Sulphur Bay area of Tanna, particularly the worship of Keraperamun, a god associated with Mount Tukosmera, Tanna's highest mountain. In some versions of the story, a native named Manehivi, under the alias "John Frum", began appearing among the native people of Tanna while dressed in a Western coat, making promises of houses, clothes, food, and transport. Others contend that John Frum was a kava-induced spirit vision. Said to be a manifestation of Keraperamun, John Frum promised the dawn of a new age, in which all white people, including missionaries, would leave the New Hebrides, and that the native Melanesians would gain access to the material wealth that white people enjoyed. For this to happen, however, the people of Tanna had to reject all aspects of European society (money, Western education, Christianity, work on copra plantations) and return to traditional kastom (a word for native Tannese customs).
In 1941, followers of John Frum rid themselves of their money in a frenzy of spending, left the missionary churches, schools, villages and plantations, and moved further inland to participate in traditional feasts, dances and rituals. European colonial authorities sought to suppress the movement, arresting Frum, humiliating him publicly, imprisoning him, and ultimately exiling him, along with other leaders of the cult, to another island in the archipelago.
Despite this, the movement gained popularity in the early 1940s, when some 300,000 American troops were stationed in the New Hebrides during the Second World War, bringing with them large amounts of supplies, or "cargo". After the war, and the departure of the Americans, followers of John Frum built symbolic landing strips to encourage American aeroplanes to once again land and bring them "cargo". Versions of the cult that emphasize the American influence interpret "John Frum" as a corruption of "John from (America)" (although it could be John from anywhere), and credit the presence of black Americans as influencing the idea that John Frum could be black.
In 1957, a leader of the John Frum movement, Nakomaha, created the "Tanna Army", a non-violent, ritualistic organisation which organised military-style parades, their faces painted in ritual colours, and wearing white t-shirts with the letters "T-A USA" (Tanna Army USA). This parade still takes place every year on February 15.
The cult is still active today. The followers believe that John Frum will come back on a February 15 (the year of his return is not known), a date which is observed as "John Frum Day" in Vanuatu.
In the late 1970s, John Frum followers opposed the imminent creation of an independent, united nation of Vanuatu. They objected to a centralised government which they feared would favour Western modernity and Christianity, felt to be detrimental to local customs. The John Frum movement has its own political party, led by Song Keaspai. On John Frum Day in February 2007, the John Frum Movement celebrated its 50th anniversary. Chief Isaak Wan Nikiau, its leader, was quoted by the BBC from years past as saying that John Frum was "our God, our Jesus," and would eventually return.

© Photo and Text: Wikipedia

20 September 2011

Ethnoflorence blog

Theme: Indian and Himalayan folk tribal arts
Date: Since October 2010

18 September 2011

The craftsmanship of Nanjing Yunjin brocade

Nanjing Yunjin brocade, ETHNIKKA blog for human cultural knowledge
In the Chinese tradition of weaving Nanjing Yunjin brocade, two craftspeople operate the upper and lower parts of a large, complicated loom to produce textiles incorporating fine materials such as silk, gold and peacock feather yarn. The technique was once used to produce royal garments such as the dragon robe and crown costume; today, it is still used to make high-end attire and souvenirs. Preserved primarily in Jiangsu province in eastern China, the method comprises more than a hundred procedures, including manufacturing looms, drafting patterns, the creation of jacquard cards for programming weaving patterns, dressing the loom and the many stages of weaving itself. As they ‘pass the warp’ and ‘split the weft’, the weavers sing mnemonic ballads that remind them of the techniques they employ and enhance the cooperative, artistic atmosphere at the loom. The workers view their craft as part of a historical mission since, in addition to creating fabrics for contemporary use, yunjin is used to replicate ancient silk fabrics for researchers and museums. Named for the cloud-like splendour of the fabrics, yunjin remains popular throughout the country.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Nanjing Yunjin Brocade Research Institute Company Limited

16 September 2011


Name: Maya, from dawn to dusk, National collections of Guatemala
Dates: 6th June to 2nd October 2011
Opening times: tuesday, wednesday and sunday : 11am . 7pm, thursday, friday, saturday : 11am . 9pm
Place: Quai Branly Museum, 37, quai Branly, Paris (France)
Entrance fee: 8,5 €
Webpage: www.quaibranly.fr

Through the presentation of more than 160 exceptional objects belonging to the National Heritage of Guatemala – painted ceramics, steles, cut semiprecious stones, funerary objects, architectural remains, ornaments, etc. – the exhibition retraces the development of Maya civilization, its rise and decline before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in 1524 C.E., with a chronological visit distinguishing the pre-classical, classical, and post-classical periods.
In order to present the public with a wider and more complex conception of Maya culture, the chosen objects come from three large regions of Guatemala: the highlands, the lowlands, and the Pacific coast.
The exhibition also presents the discoveries made at multiple sites recently studied, such as El Mirador, at the head of a group of fi ve sites selected in 2002 by the Guatemalan government for nomination on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. This latest research allows for the presentation to the visitor of a greater and more complex conception of Maya culture. The exhibition ends with a more contemporary section integrating multimedia and photographs, permitting the transmission of a broad view of ancient and contemporary Maya culture, and creating a link between past and present.

© Text and image: Quai Branly

14 September 2011

American Indian Shell Gorget

American Indian Shell Gorget, ETHNIKKA blog for human culture knowledge
Name: American Indian shell Gorget
Origin: Northern California, (United States)
Museum: California State Indian Museum, Sacramento, California (United States)
Material: abalone shell
Dimensions: 10.795 x 7.62 cm. (4 1/4 x 3 in.)
Reference code:  BWH-18-AT-1-SL
Age: Pre-contact
Collector: Benjamin Welcome Hathaway, 1881-1959
Digital collection: Press here 
A shell gorget is a carved pendant typically worn around the neck and frequently engraved, sometimes highlighted with pigments, and usually pierced. Many gorgets from Northern California tribes were made from the Haliotis or abalone shell, a material used to make many types of beads for jewelry and decoration for women's ceremonial skirts. Traditionally, both men and women wore these types of gorgets for personal adornment. Current regalia makers still use abalone shell as a decorative element.
Shell gorgets were most common in Eastern Woodlands of the United States, during in the Hopewell tradition (200 BCE–500 CE) and Mississippian cultural period (ca. 800–1500 CE); however, tribes from other regions and time periods, also carved shell gorgets. The earliest shell gorgets date back to 3000 years BP. They are believed to have been insignia of status or rank, either civic, military, or religious, or amulets of protective medicine. Due to the placement of the holes in the gorgets, they are also thought to be spinners that could produce whistling sounds.
Lightning whelk (Busycon contrarium) is the most common shell used for gorgets. Other shells, such as the true conch or Strombus, as well as freshwater mussels, are also carved into gorgets. Today, due to environmental causes, harvested lightning whelks are significantly smaller than in pre-contact times. These earlier shells typically ranged from 6 to 12 inches in length.
Harvested off the coasts of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the shells were traded through the Eastern Woodlands. This native trade continued into the 16th century.
Gorgets are carved from the penultimate whorl of the shell. A blank is cut or broken out, then ground smooth. Holes for suspension and decoration are drilled, sometimes with a bow drills or chert drills. The gorget forms a concave shape and, when engraved, the interior is polished and decorated.
While most gorgets are circular, some are shaped as rectangles with rounded corners, maskettes, or other novel shapes. An extremely elaborate pendant from Spiro Mounds is shaped as two hands connected by a common beaded bracelet.
Iconography on the shell gorgets comes from the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC). Extremely common designs include the triskele, coiled rattlesnake, water spider, chunkey player, and birdman, sometimes called a Falcon Impersonator.
There are over 30 pre-contact examples of the Cox Mound gorget style, found in Tennessee and northern Alabama and dating from 1250-1450 CE. The Cox Mound gorget style features four woodpecker heads facing counter-clockwise, a four-lopped square motif, and a cross within a rayed circle. The four-looped square, or guilloche, is considered by some to be a "whirling sun" motif, or a priestly or chiefly litter; by some, the earth held up by cords to the Sky Vault at the four cardinal points; and by others, the path of life with four stages of maturity. Woodpeckers are considered warrior birds among Cherokee and medicine birds that can extract illnesses among Muscogee Creeks. The birds are also sometimes interpreted as the four winds. The rayed circle or sun is interpreted literally, a deity or ancestors, council, and/or sacred fire. The entire design could also illustrate the Yuchi myth of the winds.
A gorget from the Castalian Springs Mound Site in Tennessee features a man holding a mace and severed head. This has been interpreted by some anthropologists as a "flying shaman."
Some agreement can be found in interpreting the cross-in-circle design, which references the sun and the ceremonial fire, fed by four logs aligned to cardinal directions. Another design widely agreed upon is the water spider with a cross-in-circle design on its cephalothorax. The spider gorgets illustrate a traditional story, common to many southeastern tribes from the Atlantic Coast to Missouri, about the water spider bringing fire to humanity.

About the California State Indian Museum:
The California State Indian Museum displays exhibits illustrating the cultures of the state's first inhabitants. California's prehistoric population, one of the largest and most diverse in the Western hemisphere, was made up of over 150 distinct tribal groups who spoke at least sixty-four different languages. California Indian population estimates, before the arrival of the first Europeans, were at least 500,000 people.
California Indian cultural items in the museum include basketry, beadwork, clothing and exhibits about the ongoing traditions of various California Indian tribes.  Descendents of the first Californians, tens of thousands of them, still live in California and still cherish and carry on their unique cultural heritage. Indigenous people have donated many photographs of family, friends and memorable times for use in the museum. A section of the museum features a hands-on area, where visitors can try their hand at using Indian tools, such as the pump drill, used for making holes in shell beads and other materials; the mortar and pestle and soap root brush, made from the soap root plant, all used for grinding acorns.
The California State Indian Museum is located in the downtown area of Sacramento at 26th and K Streets.

© Text and image: California State Indian Museum and Wikipedia

12 September 2011

Mexican pinole

Pinole is a Spanish translation of an Aztec word for a coarse flour made from ground toasted maize kernels, often in a mixture with a variety of herbs and ground seeds, which can be eaten by itself or be used as the base for a beverage. In southeastern Mexico and in Central America this food and beverage is known as pinol or pinolillo, considered the national beverage of Nicaragua.
Herbs and flavorings added to pinole include ground mustard seeds, ground chia seeds, ground cacao, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, achiote, and other grasses and annual herbs. The mixture is sometimes beaten with water to make a hot or cold beverage (also called pinole), or sometimes cooked with water to make an edible mush.
In parts of central Mexico, groups of rowdy youths traditionally went from house to house during Carnival to demand pinole, which they were served without water (and frequently mixed with Chili pepper to make it even more difficult to swallow). This custom may have given rise to the popular saying, El que tiene más saliva, traga más pinole ("Whoever has the most saliva, swallows the most pinole"; in other words, whoever has the most skill for a particular job will accomplish the most).

Pinole describes any of a variety of forms of parched or roasted corn, ground into a flour and combined with water and some spices or sugar. It can be made into a drink, an oatmeal-like paste, or baked to form a more-portable "cake."

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, ground as fine as possible
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • chia seeds (optional)
How to prepare it:
Toast the cornmeal in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, mix in cinnamon, and sweetener or other spices, and desired amount of water.
If you add just a few tablespoons of water instead and mix, you get an oatmeal-like consistency that can be eaten with a spoon. Alternatively, you can bake the paste at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes until it has the texture of a brownie.

© Text and image: Matt Frazier (www.nomeatathlete.com)

10 September 2011

Buried Treasure TV series

Title: Buried Treasure
Year: 2011
Running time: 43 minutes each episode
Country: USA
Plot summary:
The human drama of reality television is mixed with the excitement of revealing some valuable art and antiques on a new FOX-TV series hosted by identical twin brothers Leigh Keno and Leslie Keno. The two Americana experts debut in "Buried Treasure" on Aug. 24 at 8pm/7pm Central.
The duo expands upon the appraisal model from the popular 15-years-running "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS to the more intimate setting of private homes nationwide. They sleuth for worthy finds from basement to attic for people who are often down on their luck, facing money problems or illness.
"We have found treasures from all over the world, valuable and rare objects ranging from 1000 B.C., a Minoan bronze bowl with inscriptions that was buried under a pile of magazines," says Leigh Keno of the discoveries on the show. He continues, "... and a rare Egyptian tomb figure with the figure of Osiris, polychrome painted, that was just sitting in a dresser in a house that had been sort of falling...down."
For some participants in the series, the Keno brothers save the day by unearthing a windfall.
"Well, there’s a number of pieces in the six figures," Leslie reveals of their finds. "The amazing thing is that the family doesn’t know the value and doesn’t realize what they have, which is so exciting...."
But there are also disappointments. To help separate the real from the fake, in paintings to jewelry to antiquities and more, the Kenos bring along a high-tech lab, and sometimes consult "the world’s top experts in a specific area just to be absolutely sure," says Leigh.
Episodes wrap with advice from the Kenos on where to sell any valuables, if the owners are so inclined. The brothers say they offer different routes for the piece to achieve the best price, by  directing sales to dealers, auction houses, and collectors.
"It’s a treasure hunting show with real heart and feeling and emotion," says Leslie, "...we do get very involved with not only the owners, but their children and their heirs and sometimes their parents...these objects have sometimes really big emotional attachment with the family."
The Kenos brothers are well-known for their enthusiastic appearances on "Antiques Roadshow,"  and the former PBS series Find!, as well as their long-running careers in American antiques. Leigh Keno owns Keno Auctions in New York City and Leslie Keno is Senior Vice President and Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Sotheby's.
The pair has reportedly facilitated more than $1 billion in sales of art, antiques and collectibles over the years.

© Text and image: FOX TV, ArtFixDaily

8 September 2011

The Yaqui of Mexico

Yaqui or Yoreme deer dancers, ETHNIKKA blog for human culture knowledge
Name: Yaqui (or Yoreme) 
Living Area: Sonora State (Mexico), and Arizona State (USA
Population: approx. 23.000 
Language: Yaqui 
The Yaqui or Yoreme are a Native American tribe who originally lived in the valley of the Río Yaqui in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Many Yaqui still live in their original homeland, but some live in Arizona as a result of wars between the Yaqui and the Mexican government. The Yaqui call themselves Yoreme, the Yaqui word for person (yoemem or yo'emem meaning "people"). Their language is one of 30 in the Uto-Aztecan family. The Yaqui call their homeland Hiakim, from which the name "Yaqui" is derived. They may also describe themselves as Hiaki Nation or Pascua Hiaki, meaning "The Easter People", as most had converted to Catholicism under Jesuit influence in colonial Mexico.
In the past, the Yaqui subsisted on agriculture, growing corn, beans, and squash (like many of the natives of the region). The Yaqui who lived in the Río Yaqui region and in coastal areas of Sonora and Sinaloa fished as well as farmed. The Yaqui also made cotton products. The Yaqui have always been skillful warriors. The Yaqui Indians have been historically described as quite tall in stature.
The Yaqui conception of the world is considerably different from that of their European-Mexican and European-American neighbors. For example, the world (in Yaqui, anía) is composed of five separate worlds: the desert wilderness world, the mystical world, the flower world, the dream world, and the night world. Much Yaqui ritual is centered upon perfecting these worlds and eliminating the harm that has been done to them, especially by people. Many Yaqui have combined such ideas with their practice of Catholicism, and believe that the existence of the world depends on their annual performance of the Lenten and Easter rituals.
Flowers are very important in the Yaqui culture. According to Yaqui teachings, flowers sprang up from the drops of blood that were shed at the Crucifixion. Flowers are viewed as the manifestation of souls. Occasionally Yaqui men may greet a close male friend with the phrase Haisa sewa? ("How is the flower?").

The Yaqui were never conquered militarily by the Spanish, and they defeated successive expeditions of conquistadores in battle. They were converted to Christianity by Jesuit missionaries, who convinced them in the seventeenth century to settle into eight towns: Pótam, Vícam, Tórim, Bácum, Cócorit, Huirivis, Benem, and Rahum.
For many years, the Yaqui lived peacefully in a relationship with the Jesuit missionaries. This resulted in considerable mutual advantage: the Yaqui developed a productive economy, and the missionaries used the income to extend their missionary activities further north. In the 1730s, the Spanish colonial government began to alter this relationship, and eventually ordered all Jesuits out of Sonora. This created considerable unrest among the Yaqui and led to several rebellions. The Franciscan priests who were supposed to replace the Jesuits never arrived, leaving the Yaqui with no Spanish Catholic religious leaders.
The Yaqui leader Juan Banderas, executed in 1833, had wanted to unite the Mayo, Opata, and Pima tribes, together with the Yaqui, to form an alliance separate from Mexico in the 1820s. His effort failed and the Yaqui remained within the scope of Mexican legal authority. The nation suffered a succession of brutalities by the Mexican authorities, including a notable massacre in 1868, in which the Army burned 150 Yaqui to death inside a church.
The Yaqui leader Cajemé led another effort for independence in the 1880s. Following this war, the regime of Porfirio Díaz subjected the Yaqui to further brutality. He ordered a policy of ethnic transfer, in order to remove the Yaqui from Sonora and encourage immigration from Europe and the United States. The government transferred tens of thousands of Yaqui from Sonora to the Yucatán peninsula. Some were sold as slaves and worked on plantations in Mexico; many of the slaves died from the brutal working conditions. Many Yaqui fled to the United States to escape the persecution. Today, the Mexican municipality of Cajeme is named after the fallen Yaqui leader.

Known for their Deer Dance (Danza del Venado):
The Yaqui religion, which is a syncretic religion of old Yaqui beliefs and practices and the Christian teachings of Jesuit and later Franciscan missionaries, relies upon song, music, prayer, and dancing, all performed by designated members of the community. For instance, the Yaqui deer song (maso bwikam) accompanies the deer dance, which is performed by a pascola (Easter, from the Spanish pascua) dancer, also known as a "deer dancer". Pascolas perform at religio-social functions many times of the year, but especially during Lent and Easter. The Yaqui deer song ritual is in many ways similar to the deer song rituals of neighboring Uto-Aztecan people, such as the Mayo. The Yaqui deer song is more central to the cults of its people and is strongly tied in to Roman Catholic beliefs and practices.

© Photo and Text: Wikipedia

6 September 2011

Webb’s Oceanic and African Arts Auction

Early_Hei_Tiki_Pounamu, Ethnikka blog for cultural knowledge
Auction: Webb’s Oceanic and African Arts
Date: 8th September 2011 18:00h (UTC/GMT +12 hours)
Preview: 1st September 2001 17:30 - 19:30
Place: 18 Manukau Road, Newmarket, Auckland (New Zealand)
Contact:  ncampbell@webbs.co.nz
Webpage:  www.webbs.co.nz
Webb’s is delighted to once again present an outstanding and substantial sale of art and artifacts from Africa and the Oceanic region. Maori and Pacific material has been consigned to us from collections across the globe, including a significant collection from Hawaii, offering a wonderful opportunity to access material not previously seen on the New Zealand market. A further consignment of African art and artifacts has also been released to us from the collection of prominent New York dealer Merton D. Simpson.

About Webb’s:
Established in 1976, Webb's is New Zealand's premier auction service. Located in Auckland, Webb's leads the market in the sale of fine art, jewellery, watches, decorative arts, rare books and fine wines. Webb's also holds regular specialist sales in areas such as modern and contemporary design, photography, Maori and Oceanic artifacts, important motorcycles. With more than twenty specialist staff Webb's level of expertise cannot be matched. Comprehensive Auckland, national and international marketing and appraisal services are provided.

© Photo and text: Webb’s

4 September 2011

Chinese timber-framed structures

Chines timber-framed structures, ETHNIKKA blog for cultural knowledge
Standing as distinctive symbols of Chinese architectural culture, timber-framed structures are found throughout the country. The wooden components such as the columns, beams, purlins, lintel and bracket sets are connected by tenon joints in a flexible, earthquake-resistant way. The surprisingly strong frames can be installed quickly at the building site by assembling components manufactured in advanced. In addition to this structural carpentry, the architectural craft also encompasses decorative woodworking, tile roofing, stonework, decorative painting and other arts passed down from masters to apprentices through verbal and practical instruction. Each phase of the construction procedure demonstrates its unique and systematic methods and skills. Employed today mainly in the construction of structures in the traditional style and in restoring ancient timber-framed buildings, Chinese traditional architectural craftsmanship for timber-framed structures embodies a heritage of wisdom and craftsmanship and reflects an inherited understanding of nature and interpersonal relationships in traditional Chinese society. For the carpenters and artisans who preserve this architectural style, and for the people who have lived in and among the spaces defined by it for generations, it has become a central visual component of Chinese identity and an important representative of Asian architecture. 
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Zhao Yuchun 

2 September 2011


Name: Kota 
Dates: September 6 to October 8, 2011
Place: Galerie Yann Ferrandin, 5 rue Visconti, Paris (France)
Webpage: www.yannferrandin.com
A journey into the magical forests of Gabon to discover a superb selection of ancient reliquaries of the Kota, Obamba, Shamay or Mahongwé peoples.
Among the objects on display, you will have the opportunity to see this extraordinary Kota Obamba reliquary figure.
The sculpture is thick, powerful and well balanced.
The forehead occupies half the volume of the head, accentuating the fine concave face. The almond eyes are fixed with iron nails.
The wood has a thick crusty patina. The copper and brass used are of high quality.
Note the attention to detail, particularly the pattern produced at the center of the crescent, the embossed hoop encircling the forehead and neat cutting of the central plate of the face.
© Text and image: Yann Ferrandin