I'm slowly emerging from Electionland, though I readily admit that I'm completely besotted by our new First Family. Every time I see them being all affectionate and sweet I feel like the orphan outside the happy family's window, wondering if they'd adopt me.
I did stitch while watching all the speechifying last week, and this is the current status of the shsisha practice piece. I have a little more beadwork to do, then I want to move on to the bigger piece I have planned.
Here are more photos of textiles from the Shipibo Indians of Peru. I've reduced these somewhat for faster loading, but if you want to see a full-size image file, just let me know. All of these photos were taken by Chris Kilham, the Medicine Hunter, who works closely with the Shipibo Indians and other indigenous peoples all over the world, and is also, among other things, the man who introduced me to yoga in 1993 and designed the yoga practice that is still the foundation of my practice today. This is his most well-known yoga book.
Here's what Howard G. Charing says about these rhythmic patterns:
"The main figures in the Shipibo designs are the square, th rhombus, the octagon, and the cross. The symmetry of the patterns emanating from the centre (which is our world) is a representation of the outer and inner worlds, a map of the Cosmos. The cross represents the Southern Cross constellation which dominates the night sky and divides the cosmos into four quadrants, the intersection of the arms of the cross is the centre of the universe, and becomes the Cosmic Cross.
The Cosmic Cross represents the eternal spirit of a person and the union of the masculine and feminine principles -- the very cycle of life and death -- which reminds us of the great act of procreation of not only the universe, but also of humanity, and our individual selves. The smaller, flowing patterns within the geometric forms are the radiating power of the Cosmic Serpent which turns this way and that, betwixt and between, constantly creating the universe as it moves."
Whew. Not every textile tradition is quite so mystical and metaphysical, but all over the world, we find textile stories like these, with a language of their own, deeply integrated into the history and social constructs of a culture. A key element of the Slow Cloth mission, at least as I envision it, is preserving and honoring these traditions, documenting them, keeping them alive and vibrant, not letting them get swallowed up in an Old Navy world. We lose something when cultures, arts and languages die or lose their integrity, just as when animal or plant species become extinct.
There's plenty to say, as Anaka of BrassTacks Madras pointed out in the comment thread on African textiles, about how we who want to support traditional artisans in developing countries can go about it without doing harm, or creating markets that then collapse. This is a concern for many things -- foods, medicinal plants, other crafts. But I think I'll save that for another post and just let you enjoy these vivid works of creation and visions.