Ethnic Embroidery – Part 3 – Ethnologist


Let me play ethnologist for a moment.

These days, with global homogenization and international trade, the tendency begun int he 1850s when DMC designs started infiltrating village embroidery has accelerated. So many refugee groups have also diluted the regional identity of designs. The areas that maintain an ethnic style do so by concious choice, usually in “national” or even “regional” costume. And even then the work is often an amalgram of local styles.

Once, you could tell which village, court, or country a man or woman came from by the choice of designs and colored thread and style of embroidery on their clothing. The skills often haven’t been passed down through the generation. In addition humans have, as we always do, integrated designs from other cultures into our work. Many young people around the world prefer jeans and a t-shirt or a tailored Western suit to the embroidered clothing of our ancestors.

This is sad, but I think when we move from appropriation of cultural arts to appreciation and multi-directional integration is when we will finally be able to come together as one human society. (and just to calm the conspiracy theorists, no, I am NOT advocating for one world culture and government. Just an understanding between all of the myriad groups that humans create!)

Cultural change and integration happens with contact between cultures. The alternative is stagnation. The catch is to keep from developing  (or maintaining) a “superior” colonial attitude while it’s happening. It’s difficult because we’re hardwired to separate into “us” and “them” and to dehumanize the “them” to improve our own situation. But I believe we, as a race, can be better than that – it takes awareness and conscious thought.

My part in all this is to learn as many folk embroidery techniques and dance forms as I can. And share them.

Ethnic Embroidery Part 1

Ethnic Embroidery Part 2

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