Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Keepsakes of Culture

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 7:13 AM

"Where are you visiting us from?" asked the tour guide as he looked me and my husband,
Joseph, up and down, trying to guess our origins. "We come from Indiana," I said. The guide's face lit up with excitement as he pointed at Joseph's all-weather black felt hat. "Oh yes!" the man exclaimed, "Those hats are very Indiana, like in the movie!" We were on our way to visit the pyramids of Monte Alban, and so we let him believe that indeed, we were from the land of Indiana Jones.

click to enlarge Jennifer's husband, Joseph Kilbourn, stands with the Monte Alban Pyramids behind him. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER DELGADILLO
  • Photo by Jennifer Delgadillo
  • Jennifer's husband, Joseph Kilbourn, stands with the Monte Alban Pyramids behind him.

Before we headed south to the state of Oaxaca (land of seven moles, fried grasshoppers, black clay and Tehuanas), running away from the SAD, the frigid weather and snow, I stopped by Homespun to purchase souvenirs for my friends and family in Mexico. Although marveled by the variety and talent of the makers, I was a bit annoyed with the lack of products bearing the name of our Circle City, or the outline of the state. I purchased some baby clothes and stickers, books by locals from Indy Reads, and a couple issues of Eñe, to further illustrate the coolness of my current hometown.

Once at our destination, I tried all possible foods and drinks, and spent our money on all varieties of local crafts. I bought alebrijes, embroidered aprons, shawls and blouses, leather sandals, woven earrings and wooden combs. There is something handmade in every corner. If I had a tail, I would have been wagging it the entire time, as I very much resembled a dog that has not been walked in a long time.

Toward the end of our trip, we visited a small town called Teotitlandel Valle, where many artisans of Zapotec heritage are known for their textile-making and rug-weaving. There we met a family who taught us about their craft. They showed us the original state of wool; how they comb it before spinning it; how they make the pigments to dye the threads naturally, and finally how to weave the different designs -- some of which are even older than the rug-making tradition.

These "chubby lizards" are made by Rolando y Jazmín Lazo at artisan house "El Aguila Zapoteca" (Zapotec Eagle).  - PHOTO BY JENNIFER DELGADILLO
  • Photo by Jennifer Delgadillo
  • These "chubby lizards" are made by Rolando y Jazmín Lazo at artisan house "El Aguila Zapoteca" (Zapotec Eagle).

During the textile-making demonstration, I saw from the corner of my eye some knitted creatures dangling from a wire hanger. They looked like little chubby green and gray monsters. I asked about them and one of the artisans explained to me that while knitting little lizards, she had decided to experiment and make them fat. The result was a new and original object that, although breaking from tradition in some ways, employed the same methods they had so elaborately explained to us.

click to enlarge This Zapotec rug by Julia Martinez Gonzalez is a souvenir version of the rugs made at Teotitlan del Valle.  - PHOTO BY JENNIFER DELGADILLO
  • Photo by Jennifer Delgadillo
  • This Zapotec rug by Julia Martinez Gonzalez is a souvenir version of the rugs made at Teotitlan del Valle.

While admiring my artisan bounty, I felt the sobering realization that I had pranced through a paradise of affordable artifacts without having exercised the same level of understanding I had with the textiles. I had been doing this from the moment I scanned Homespun for Indiana clichés, up to the moment the souvenir spell was broken by a knitted overstuffed reptile. Souvenir crafters are often robbed of their authorship, as they assume the aesthetic identity of a place or a people.

 A Google search reveals that, in fact, Indiana Jones is from Princeton, New Jersey -- not exactly a Hoosier. I think about the Zapotec family and wonder how people who are committed to promoting their ancient culture deal with making new traditions. Is there room for a couple of fat lizards in the future of Zapotec culture? I do not know. But I do know they are the mementos that remind me even the most ancient cultures are ever changing. We can and should communicate the history of our origins, never forgetting that all the parts that define us culturally have authors too.

.







  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Speaking of...

  • Seeking Submissions

    The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library challenges writers of every stripe to submit their best work for this year’s So It Goes literary journal.
    • Mar 7, 2016
  • Artfelt Gifts

    Instead of buying more “stuff” for others, Ben shares the best places in Indy for thoughtful presents that make meaningful connections.
    • Jan 9, 2016
  • Meat and Greet

    Internationally published food writer Victoria Bouloubasis to premiere her documentary film Un Buen Carnicero in Indianapolis this Thursday.
    • Oct 12, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • Positive Impressions

    Ben chats with IMA’s artist-in-residence about introducing the process of woodblock printmaking to the masses.
    • Jan 10, 2016

About The Author

Jennifer Delgadillo

Jennifer Delgadillo

Bio:
Jennifer Delgadillo is an artist who lives on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis where she enjoys making art, writing, reading magazines, and drinking wine with her husband and her neighbors. Her work is eclectic and ranges from doing diabetes research to cooking brunch on Sundays at Tlaolli. She writes regularly... more

More by Jennifer Delgadillo

  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • Happy Holidays

    The aesthetics of this holiday season offers plenty of reasons to celebrate.
    • Dec 22, 2015
  • Sweet 15

    Jennifer learns about the local quinceañera culture -- how time and place changes the traditions of this celebration of young women.
    • Nov 26, 2015
  • More »

Latest in Sky Blue Blog

  • The Nice Things

    Ben has enjoyed his opportunity to give notice to some of Indy’s 'nice things' with Sky Blue Window readers. He hopes you’ll find and share them too.
    • Mar 9, 2016
  • A Gray Sky-onara

    Dan looks back at some of his most memorable blogs at Sky Blue Window.
    • Mar 8, 2016
  • Well-Endowed Artists

    Jennifer draws Seinfeld-esque parallels to artists' financial challenges with education, but offers easy ways to help.
    • Mar 2, 2016
  • More »
© 2017 CICF
Twitter
Facebook
Privacy Policy
Contact Us:
P: 317.634.2423   F: 317.684.0943
info@skybluewindow.org
Central Indiana Community Foundation
615 N. Alabama St. #119
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-1431
Sky Blue Window is presented by:

Website powered by Foundation