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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Photo: fractalx via VisualHunt.com
Street art outside Nottingham Playhouse. The city has a plan to integrate arts and culture into all aspects of life.

What do we know about the city of Nottingham? We know about the sheriff, I guess, and his adversarial relationship with Robin Hood. But did we know that modern-day Nottingham is really into the arts? A website called Arts Professional wants to enlighten us.

Christy Romer writes, “Nottingham has committed to embedding culture in education and healthcare as part of an ambitious ten-year vision for the city.

“By 2027, the city aims to make ‘culturally-inspired lifelong learning’ available for every person in Nottingham, and establish cultural programmes, research and partnerships that enhance health and wellbeing.

“The vision … aims to achieve national and international acclaim for the quality and diversity of locally-produced artistic work.

“ ‘Culture will unlock potential in our city. The next ten years will continue to see a transition that takes the city from its industrial, manufacturing past, paving the way to reimagine the city for generations to come,’ the [Cultural Statement’s] foreword reads. …

“Plans include supporting schools to develop a world-class cultural learning offer and giving every person opportunities to access creative skills and careers. …

“The City Council also aims to work in partnership with public health professionals and local commissioning groups to understand and enhance the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents. …

“The city announced its bid for the European Capital of Culture 2023 title in August.” More.

Alas, the Brexit vote to leave the European Union means that UK cities will not be eligible. Here’s hoping that Nottingham’s worthy ambitions are not derailed by Brexit and that the UK government will help the city find the resources to carry out its plans. (One has to wonder if the ramifications of leaving the EU was ever fully thought out.)

AmeliainHull, it sounds like Nottingham wants to give Hull a run for its money!

Art: Louis Rhead, “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band,” New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912.

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Photo: eGuide Travel
The highlands of Papua, New Guinea, are among the isolated places that linguists search for speakers of dying languages.

I’ve blogged before about linguists and others who are trying to preserve languages spoken by only a few people. The belief is that there is intrinsic value in such endangered languages and that they are key to understanding cultures. Recently I saw that one group is focusing on a particular manifestation of rare languages — their poems.

Fiona Macdonald writes at the BBC about the Endangered Poetry Project.

” ‘They fly to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and there they take a bus for three days and then they hike over a mountain and then they take a canoe and then they get to this little bay with 300 people,’ ” she reports, quoting Mandana Seyfeddinipur, head of the Endangered Languages Archive at London’s SOAS [School of Oriental and African Studies]. …

” They are ‘PhD students of 25 with a digital camera, a digital audio recorder and solar panels.’ …

“ ‘They live with the communities for months at a time, and develop social relationships, and talk to them and record them, and then they come back and they give me this SD card. … ‘The only record that we have of this language is in this tiny SD card.’ …

“The newly launched Endangered Poetry Project aims to tackle [language] loss at another level. ‘Languages are dying out at an astonishing rate: a language is being lost every two weeks,’ says the National Poetry Librarian Chris McCabe. ‘And each of those languages has a poetic tradition of some sort.’ …

“The project has issued a call-out to members of the public, asking for poems written in an endangered or vulnerable language. ‘In the first week, we’ve had over a dozen submissions in about 10 languages,’ says McCabe. ‘That includes poems in Breton, and poems in a dialect of Breton called Vannes. We’ve had a poem in Alsatian, and the Sardinian dialect Logudorese. We’re interested in these variations in language in different places as well, which can often be markedly different from the established language. …

” ‘You get a focus on place – in poems we’ve received from Sardinia, for example, there’s a focus on the mountain range there,’ says McCabe. ‘It shows you where people felt drawn to for inspiration in the landscape. Also, the style of a lot of Gaelic poems is very lyrical, and often uses repetition, a lot like a song. In that poetic tradition, you see how the division between poetry and music is quite slight – they often cross over between one and the other. The poetry tells us a lot about what kind of artistic experience people like, as well as what’s important in their geography.’ ”

Lots more here. Very interesting stuff.

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Photo: Talia Herman for The New York Times
Girls wearing traditional dance attire on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath, Calif. Young people are learning to make regalia the old-fashioned way, from materials like elk and deer sinew.

As dedicated tribal members revive customs that were once disparaged, young people are responding. For youth from the Yurok tribe in California, hands-on creation of traditional dance materials has been the starting point for an awakening of cultural pride.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the New York Times, “The gathering known simply as ‘Uncle Dave’s camp’ begins at daybreak on the pebbled banks of the Klamath River, the age-old spruce and redwoods on the bluffs shrouded in mist.

“Here on the Yurok Indian Reservation near the Oregon border, so remote that certain areas have yet to receive electricity, young male campers sit on cedar logs while keeping tabs on a river rock heated in a fire. The rock, hand-hollowed and chiseled with basketry patterns, contains a molten glue made from the dried air bladders of sturgeons.

“The syrupy concoction is a crucial ingredient for making feathered headdresses, hide quivers, obsidian-blade sticks and other forms of ceremonial dance ornaments, or regalia, that are at once works of art and living conduits to the spirit world.

“The fishing camp that David Severns, a tribal member, started over 20 years ago has grown into a grass-roots culture camp dedicated to making regalia the old-fashioned way, before mail-order. The source is nature itself — elk and deer sinew, baleen from a whale stranded in the river and delicate fibers from wild irises culled from forested high country. It is part of a broader revival of ancestral ceremonial practices, including dances and songs, among native youths. …

“ ‘Regalia is collective medicine,’ said Mr. Severns, 54, who spends most of April through October sleeping under the stars with the campers and his wife, Mara Hope Severns, 49, from the Kanatak tribe in Alaska. ‘To make them, you’ve got to have a pure heart, because the character of a person is reflected.’ …

“Each spring, Mr. Severns and the young men erect the camp from logs that have washed downstream during winter rains. Soon, the stretch of river known as ‘Blake’s Ripple,’ for his maternal great-grandfather, springs to frenetic life. It’s a place where finely-crafted cedar boxes holding eagle and condor feathers are hollowed out with an adze, and brothers braid each others’ hair. …

“ ‘You wear your culture,’ said Melissa Nelson, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa who is an associate professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and president of the Cultural Conservancy, a native-led indigenous rights organization. ‘Young people are hungry for meaning,’ she added. ‘The opportunity to do hands-on work with abalone, clam beads, pine nuts and other materials is a thread to a healthier and more sustainable way of being in the world.’ …

“To the Yurok and other tribes, the regalia, resplendent with abalone and the scarlet crests of woodpeckers, are a dazzling life force. ‘It’s just another bird until you pray for it, burn a root for it, have a dance leader bless it — then it’s regalia,’ Josh Meyer, a camper turned teacher, said of the eagle feathers he was assembling on the beach for the Brush Dance, a healing ceremony for sick children. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service makes eagle, condor and some other feathers available for religious and cultural use. …

“ ‘Spirituality is the basis of who we are as a people,’ said Susan Masten, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians who served as Yurok tribal chairwoman. ‘For young people, a strong sense of culture and spirituality helps with whatever they face out in the world.’…

“Mr. Meyers, the teacher, grew up with alcohol in the family and a lot of anger. ‘A lot of us didn’t have father figures in our lives,’ he said. ‘We looked to Dave for that.’

“On his exquisite regalia box, Mr. Meyers chiseled a triangle pattern meant to suggest the back of a sturgeon, burnishing it with a torch to give it a coppery patina. ‘I showed up one day and never left,’ he said of the camp. ‘Making regalia is a big part of who I am.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Floyd Davidson
Genuine “Eskimo Kiss.” Iñupiat sharing a kunik at a Nalukataq festival in Barrow, Alaska.

For Asakiyume and others interested in inventive efforts to preserve the culture of marginalized groups, this New Yorker story may be of interest.

“Iñupiat people, a tribe native to Alaska, did not have a written language for much of their history,” reports the magazine’s Culture Desk. “Instead, for thousands of years, their culture was passed down orally, often in the form of stories that parents and grandparents would tell and entrust to their children.

“In recent years, those stories, and the lessons and values and history that they contain, have become harder to preserve, as the young people of the tribe, growing up in the modern world, have drifted further and further from traditional ways.

“[A new] video, which originally appeared on ‘The New Yorker Presents‘ (Amazon Originals) and is based on a story by Simon Parkin, is about a recent experiment in transmitting Iñupiat culture through a new medium: a video game … in which an Iñupiat child travels across the wilderness to find the source of the bitter blizzards that have been hitting his village.

“Before they began building the game, E-Line developers travelled up to Barrow, in northern Alaska, in the deep, dark cold of January, to meet with tribe members and to lay the groundwork for the project. The resulting game is called Never Alone. …

“Never Alone was created through a highly collaborative process: ‘We’ve had everybody from eighty-five-year-old elders who live most of the year in remote villages to kids in Barrow High School involved in the project,’ Amy Fredeen, the C.F.O. of E-Line, told Parkin. …

“As Clare Swan, who sits on the tribal council that had to approve the project, recalls, ‘We just said, “Shoot, of course it’s difficult.” Anything that’s worth it is.’ ”

More at the New Yorker, here.

I imagine that elders and students got a thrill out of this project in different ways. I would love to know to what extent their feelings overlapped. Did the elders care more about the preservation aspects and the children about making modern media?

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Photo: Jessica Hinchliffe/ABC Brisbane
The women of Queensland’s Spice Exchange create different spice blends to sell. 

This happy refugee story is from Australia, another country where refugees make valuable contributions, in this case sharing their beautiful foods and recipes with the broader population.

Jessica Hinchliffe writes at ABC Brisbane, “A social enterprise in Queensland is helping refugee and migrant women gain employment and foster community spirit through cooking.

“The Spice Exchange sees these enterprising women come together to create spice blends, condiments and gingerbread. They use recipes and spices well known in their home countries.

“Backed by Access Community Services, the social enterprise in Logan, south of Brisbane, also helps the women practise their English-speaking skills.

“Many of those involved are single women with dependent children, with limited education and literacy skills.

“Organiser Tianna Dencher said the Spice Exchange was helping these women, who sometimes felt isolated, find their voice. …

” ‘We saw that these women were comfortable with food and we decided to create something that would engage women around food.

” ‘Many of the women had such great cultural diversity, had beautiful cuisines that had spices … that’s how we started.’

“The program also teaches the women about workplace culture, marketing and how to price products. …

“Adhel Mawien Ukong began with the Spice Exchange in September and said the program provided her with opportunities for her and her children.

” ‘I’ve learnt so much,’ she said. ‘I start at 9:00 am and finish at 2.30 pm, and it’s given me a job four days a week and it’s helped us.

I love it so much so I come here every day of the week sometimes, and I’ve invited other women to join me.’ “

More here.

Hat Tip to @VictoriaLynden on twitter.

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Photo: Iñaki LL

One of my Facebook friends shared an entertaining page on “rare and strange instruments” (you have to see it to believe it), leading me to seek more information on an instrument called the txalaparta. It may not be as unusual as the piano that makes cats meow but is nevertheless worthy of investigation.

According to Wikipedia, the txalaparta is “a specialized Basque music device of wood or stone. In some regions of the Basque Country, zalaparta (with [s]) means ‘racket,’ while in others (in Navarre) txalaparta has been attested as meaning the trot of the horse, a sense closely related to the sound of the instrument. …

“During the last 150 years, txalaparta has been attested as a communication device used for funeral (hileta), celebration (jai) or the making of slaked lime (kare), or cider (sagardo). After the making of cider, the same board that pressed the apples was beaten to summon the neighbours. Then, a celebration was held and txalaparta played cheerfully, while cider was drunk. …

“Traditional txalaparta was almost extinct in the 1950s with a handful of pairs of peasants maintaining the tradition. It was then revived by folklorists, such as Jesus and Jose Antonio Artze from the group Ez dok amairu.” Now you can hear it on YouTube, below.

More at Wikipedia.

Video: The Give and Take of Wood and Stone. Oreka Tx Brings Once Threatened Basque Sounds and New Global Resonances to the U.S. in September 2010 and on Nömadak Tx.

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Chalk up another one for art and culture. According to Lisa Contag at the website Blouin Art Info, a UNESCO study has found evidence that art and culture improve safety in cities, in part by building social cohesion.

She writes, “UNESCO makes a strong case for systematically fostering culture in city planning in its new ‘Global Report, Culture: Urban Future.’ …

“In more than 100 case studies, the survey analyzes the situations, risks, and potentials for cities in a number of regional contexts, with a particular interest also in Africa and Asia, where urbanization is expected to continue increasing rapidly in the next decades.

“ ‘Culture lies at the heart of urban renewal and innovation. This report provides a wealth of insights and concrete evidence showing the power of culture as a strategic asset for creating cities that are more inclusive, creative and sustainable,’ Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO noted in a statement, stressing that ‘culture gives cities social and economic power,’ especially with the help of the creative industries.

“As an example, the report refers to Shanghai, China, which has held the status of a UNESCO Creative City of Design since 2010, and is considered ‘one of the world’s major creative centers, with more than 7.4% of residents employed in the creative industries.’

“Cities in conflict and post-conflict situations, such as Samarra, Iraq, which was confronted with the destruction of a number of invaluable sites such as the Al-Askari Shrine in 2006, are also taken into consideration and seem to benefit similarly. ‘Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts have demonstrated the ability of culture to restore social cohesion between communities and improve livelihoods, paving the way for dialogue and reconciliation,’ the authors explain.”

The authors observe that culturally diverse, safe, and thriving cities are people-centered and culture-centered and feature policy-making that builds on culture.

More here.

Photo: UNESCO
Screenshot from Reza’s UNESCO video “Culture – the Soul of Cities”

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