United Nations Association Center
We are fortunate to be able to offer products that reflect the traditional craftsmanship and arts from cultures across the globe. We will seasonally choose a selection of products or processes to review and detail below:
Imagine taking on the form and characteristics of your favorite animal. The Zapotec culture, occupying the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico for over 6000 years, explores this relationship in the ancient Zapotec tradition of woodcarving. "Alebrijes" are the highly imaginative, stylized, wood animal forms carved from the contorted limbs of the copal tree. The Zapotec artist studies the limb for the figure it contains, often depicting either realistic or magical animals or spirits, and with not a little mischief and humor, completes the transition with extravagant color. The evolution of this traditional art has contributed to providing sustainable economic benefits and improved livlihoods for these indigenous craftspeople.
Additional information can be viewed on the following link: The Art of Oaxacan Wood Carvings
HANDMADE HIMALAYAN LOKTA PAPER
Lokta (Daphne Bholua, Daphne Papyraceae, Daphne Cannabina)is a fast growing cultivated shrub that grows only above 6500 ft. in the Himalayas. The paper made from this plant is exceptionally durable, free of acid and is ideal for archival storage. The traditional art of making paper in Nepal has remained virtually unchanged for 2000 years. The bark of the Lokta tree is pounded to a fine pulp and boiled until the particles are consistently sized. The mixture is then poured onto a fine mesh screen, the mixture evenly distributed to form sheets of rough paper. The screens are then set out in the sun, and when dry, the sheets are removed and pressed to create the finished product.
INDIGENOUS GUATEMALAN (MAYAN) TEXTILES
The textiles of the Maya Quiche of Guatemala are one of the few remaining living craft traditions, essentially the preservation of their indigenous pre-Hispanic tradition. The Maya Quiche are the largest group of all the Middle American Indians, strongly bound by their integrity and similarities in agriculture, dress, language and character. Cotton is the predominant fiber, with other natural fibers such as silk and wool being used. The hand woven textiles are produced on either a backstrap loom by women(telar de palito: diagrammed on the left), or on a treadle or foot loom by the men (telar de pie). Dress (traje) performs a function in Mayan culture beyond that of practicality and protection. It readily identifies an individual as belonging to a specific cultural group or municipality, the patterns and elements of style are imbued with regional meaning particular to individual villages.
Click on the following link to view the varied techniques and patterning evident in these textiles. The Nim Po't Textile Collection.
The sophistication and diversity of hand woven textiles from Indonesia are recognized to be the finest in the world. These weavings, with their symbolic patterning, are the foremost artistic expression among the women of this region, as well as being an integral part of their culture in ceremony, gift exchange, barter, and traditional dress. Warp ikat is the term used to describe the process of creating a pattern on the warp threads before the warp is tied onto the back strap loom for the weaving process. The weaver determines the pattern, the warp threads are selectively tied with palm leaf fiber to prevent the absorption of dye, and the warp threads are vegetal dyed. The process continues with the retying of warp threads to produce differing stylized motifs and dyeing in progressively darker dyes. The dyeing process can take up to months or years to complete. These ikat are found predominately on the eastern islands of Flores, Timor, and Sumba.
The following link illustrates the process in detail: Ikat Process
Bogolanfini, which translates as "mud-cloth", is a long established tradition among the Bamana, a Mande speaking people who inhabit a large area to the east and north of Bamako in Mali. The textiles, traditionally made for garments, mens shirts or womens skirts, are made from locally grown, hand spun cotton, woven into narrow strips (finimougou). It is this cloth, sold by the meter in the markets and sewn together by hand, which forms the basis for mud-cloth.The production of Bogolan cloth involves a unique and lengthy procedure, using as the dyestuff, mud and organic residue, which has been allowed to ferment for an entire year. The patterns are passed down through generations and the artists improve through long apprenticeships. The designs are initially outlined with the mud, then the background is filled in, with the designs emerging as unpainted areas on the cloth. However, in recent years the work of less skilled artists has appeared, where the dark mud dye designs are simply painted onto a lighter background.
For an interactive description of how mud-cloth is created click Discovering Mud-cloth (courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution).
Trans-Saharan, Sub-Saharan Africa
The Tuareg are descendants of the Berbers of Saharan Africa. The design of the jewelry is bold, geometric and symmetrical. The Tuareg prefer silver because it is the metal of the Prophet. They use their jewelry for trade in exchange for food and cloth, and rings pass between men and women as a sign of affection.
In addition to their silver and gold jewelry they are also known for indigo cloth, leather saddles, pillows and boxes, and finely crafted swords.The Tuareg people are a diverse group of people sharing a common language and history, and while known previously as a nomadic people, they are now largely settling in sedentary communities outside larger cities bordering the Saharan desert.
We proudly feature the jewelry of UNESCO Seal of Excellence Award Winner, Moussa Albaka, an internationally known Tuareg silversmith from Niger.
The following link offers the viewer an insight into the life and art of the Tuareg: The Art of Being Tuareg
Asia, Japan and Indonesia
Indigo has been known to man for over 4ooo years, and has been produced as a dye stuff in Africa, India, Japan, Guatemala, Indonesia, and China. The leaves of the indigo plant (Indigofera, Polygonum and Storobilanthes), are collected in the summer, spread to dry in the sun, and then allowed to ferment in vats for many months. The process continues with either the alkaline solution being added to the vat or the natural colored fibers, intended to be dyed, saturated in a water and alkaline (wood ash, lime, lye, or soda ash) solution beforehand. The fibers are then repeatedly immersed into the dye vats, the color deepening with successive dips and oxidation. When the desired color is achieved the fibers are rinsed until the water runs clear.