Cultural appropriation in 1 minute

Cultural appropriation in 1 minute

basics you need to know

Cultural appropriation in 1 minute

Cultural appropriation: you have probably heard a lot about it in the context of jewellery, but what is it, exactly? And what is the difference with cultural appreciation? I will address both in further articles, but this overview gives you the basics!

Cultural appropriation refers to the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture without proper understanding, respect, or permission. It often involves an unequal power dynamic in which the appropriating culture has more power and privilege than the culture being appropriated, and it may result in the trivialization or misrepresentation of the appropriated culture and its elements.

Cultural appreciation refers to the respectful and informed understanding and engagement with elements of another culture. It involves learning about and gaining an understanding of the cultural context, history and significance of the elements in question, and being vocal about these. Appreciation can lead to a deeper understanding and respect for other cultures, and amplifying the voices of these cultures.

The main difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is the context in which the elements of the culture are used, and the intent behind it. Cultural appropriation is often done with little regard for the culture being taken from, and is exploitative or disrespectful. Think fashion houses adopting styles or motifs without acknowledging, crediting and supporting the cultures they are traditionally used in. On the other hand, cultural appreciation is done with respect and understanding, and aimed at actively supporting the culture borrowed from.

Of course, the field of cultural appropriation is endlessly more complex than these three points. Check back to the Collector’s Handbook for regular additions focusing on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia in particular!

References

An excellent start to read more is this blog, or this one.

The Atlantic discussed the difference in this article

Sigrid van Roode

Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.

Emirati Adornment

Emirati Adornment

lest we forget

Emirati Adornment: Tangible & Intangible

What happens when material culture, documenting and archiving meets art, storytelling and design? A wonderful project that showcases personal adornment from all angles, through exhibitions, short films, and a book: Emirati Adornment – Tangible & Intangible.

The Lest We Forget-project is an initiative of the Sheikha Salama Foundation in Abu Dhabi. The aim of the project in the widest sense is to document Emirati history and identity through objects, but even more so through the stories and memories attached to these. The exhibition curated in 2016 featured personal adornment as its central element, and the book Emirati Adornment – Tangible & Intangible shows how personal adornment is closely interwoven with memory, feelings and personal histories.

The book is divided into two sections: tangible and intangible adornment. Both sections revolve around personal memories, collected through many interviews. That is also how the selection of objects in this book came to be: it is a cross-section through objects of everyday use that the community itself put forward. The interviews reflect the values attached to these objects, and as such the book presents a bottom-up curated selection of living heritage.

First, the section on tangible adornment shows 34 individual objects with their stories. Here, we find items of jewellery and dress, but also a pair of tailoring scissors wielded by a grandfather who created a garment for Sheikh Zayed, or popsicle sticks that remind the interviewee of how her grandmother used to reinforce her burqa with these. The second section zooms in on 26 objects and artworks associated with intangible adornment. Here, we find topics such as henna, perfumes and incense, but also strength and grace, a tree, or the swaying movement of hair in a dance. Throughout the book, all of these objects and memories are presented based on personal histories, showing how much personal adornment is part of everyday life.

This approach to personal adornment, through collective memory and storytelling, results in a different selection of objects than a narrower focus on only objects of adornment would. Through the many personal anecdotes and memories shared, the world of adornment expands into that of sewing machines and popsicles, of pearl powder and wedding gun shots, of tooth polish and perfume. These objects are shown in this beautifully designed volume as photos, but also as artworks, collages, and drawings. Each object is presented with not just an image and its accompanying text, but features an opaque sheet in between the two with an additional layer: a drawing, a quote… Together, they show how images and memories overlap. Where the photographs of objects are by their nature static, the drawings on the overlays often show movement: a hand holding a kohl stick, a branch swaying in the wind, a dancer moving on an invisible rhythm. The insertion of the overlay also steers how we experience the story: first, we read the memories and personal history of the interviewee, then we see the drawing on the overlay, and only after turning that page do we see the object. As such, the design of the book makes the personal experience the central element, instead of reducing it to a mere explanation that goes with an object. A great example of how design actively influences our looking at things.

I absolutely loved this approach to personal adornment as part of everyday life and of the collective memory. The short stories introduce the reader into the intimacy of the family circle: we learn of grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers, fathers and siblings through their preferences for this or that use of personal adornment. The stories in this book present a wealth of information on not only objects, but their place in society and the values that that society attaches to them.

The volume is an artwork in itself by its wonderful design, and a treasure for anyone wanting to learn more about Emirati life and the power of adornment. If you want to understand how objects, people and memories interact, this is an important book that will have you dwell in its pages for hours!

Emirati Adornment. Tangible/Intangible, edited by Dr. Michele Bambling, 2017.

281 pp, full-colour, in Arabic and English. Available with Dukkan421

The book was a much-loved gift by Marie-Claire Bakker, who contributed to the volume

Sigrid van Roode

Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.

Organizing: 5 quick tips

Organizing: 5 quick tips

five tips

Keeping track: 5 quick tips

Keeping track of your collection is essential: if you have not already, read 5 reasons why that matters here. But how to get started with that? Here are 5 quick tips on how to organize your collection!

Keep detailed records: Keeping detailed records of your collection is essential for documentation. This can include information such as the date of acquisition, the source of the piece, the materials used, any marks or hallmarks, and any other relevant information.

Use high-quality images: Take high-quality images of each piece in your collection. These images should be clear, well-lit, and taken from different angles. Label the images with information such as the piece’s number (if you have assigned one), and the date. Read more about photographing jewellery in this book. Pro-tip: take an image of the backside, too! Too often only the front side gets photographed, but the reverse can be instrumental in cases of theft or other disasters.

Keep copies of any paperwork: Keep copies of any paperwork that may be associated with a piece of jewellery, such as invoices, receipts, export papers, and appraisals. This can provide valuable information about the piece’s history and origin and build up the provenance in case you should decide to sell them later. Add these to your records.

Store your documentation securely: Not just your jewellery, but also its documentation and accompanying images should be safe. Store your documentation and images securely: a fireproof safe for actual original photos (those endless rolls of film from before the 90’s, for example) or a secure digital storage system for digital images and documentation. This will help to protect your records from damage or loss. An essential point for your insurance!

Share your documentation: This is an important point! Share your documentation and images with other collectors and experts. That is not to say you should put your entire collection online including its purchase details, but sharing images of your pieces online along with whatever you know about it, can provide valuable information about your collection. After all, the collective knowledge out there is enormous!

Of course, documentation can be time-consuming and it is simply not always possible to document everything about a piece. However, having a good documentation can help you and others to understand the significance of your collection, and it can also help you to take care of your pieces properly.

More tips on how to get started with collection management and how to set up a system is in this free e-book: happy documenting!

Sigrid van Roode

Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.

Reproductions

Reproductions

five tips

Reproductions: how to check for authenticity

One of the main challenges with collecting traditional jewelry from North Africa and Southwest Asia is determining the authenticity of the pieces. Many pieces are sold as “antique” or “traditional” when they are actually modern reproductions. But what is ‘authentic’, and how does that show in jewellery? Here are 5 points to consider.

First off, authenticity is a complex issue. Because who determines what ‘authentic’ is? Often, the notion of authenticity is both visual and pinned to a moment in time: this is what it looked like then, and so this is what it is supposed to look like forever. That is often the result of available sources like books and online image searches, as I wrote about here, that provide that reference of what jewellery should look like. But personal adornment is always subject to change, so comparing a piece of jewellery to an image frozen in time is not enough in itself. As I have written earlier, authenticity is not solely dependent on visual aspects, but I believe the intended interaction between the object and people is a vital aspect. [1] Factors such as age, materials, craftsmanship, provenance, motifs, and designs can all be considered when determining the authenticity of a piece. So, what should you look for?

Age and patina: Older jewellery will show signs of age and wear, which can be relevant indicators of authenticity. Scratches, dents, and tarnish may indicate that a piece is authentic and has been used, rather than being a modern reproduction. Additionally, patina can also be an indicator of authenticity. Patina, that soft silk-like shimmer on a piece of jewellery, is difficult to replicate in reproductions, but tarnish can have been artificially inflicted upon a piece as long ago as, well, yesterday. And then there is the fact that there are truly antique pieces out there, that do not necessarily show signs of use and wear. Simply because they might not have been worn frequently or they have been carefully preserved over the years – read all about that phenomenon here.

Signs of use and wear alone are not definitive indicators of authenticity. Therefore, it’s important to consider these signs together with other indicators of authenticity, such as materials and craftsmanship, provenance, motifs and designs, and hallmarks and stamps.

Materials and craftsmanship: Craftsmanship can be a telling sign. Authentic traditional jewelry was made by skilled artisans who used techniques passed down from generations. These techniques, materials and designs are specific to each culture and region, and can be difficult to replicate in reproductions or forgeries. As craftmanship varies even within the same culture and region, and also changes over time like anything else in personal adornment, it is absolutely essential to have a good understanding of the traditional techniques, materials, and designs specific to the culture and region the jewelry is claimed to be from. No piece is created equal, in terms of craftsmanship: some pieces will be more intricate, detailed, and finely made than others. It really depends on the maker, the time period and the intended usage. And as for materials, a main question is whether the material did exist in the period the piece is supposedly from – it would not be the first time you’ll find a necklace with early 20th century trade beads advertised as genuinely 18th century (and that is even without the possibility of the beads themselves being reproduced).

Motifs and designs: Original jewellery often features unique motifs, patterns, and designs that are specific to the culture and region that the jewellery comes from. This is where more research comes in: familiarizing yourself with particular motifs and the execution of those motifs requires lots of reading and, of course, seeing. One of the things I enjoy the most is endless comparing of pieces. And as with many other fields of research, the devil is in the details: the overall composition may be featured in a wide area, but the execution of the details is mostly telling of the exact origin of a piece. Modern reproductions often get those tiny details not quite right, so getting a handle on these is key.

Hallmarks and stamps: Check for the presence of hallmarks or stamps. These may indicate the metal content, maker, and sometimes the date of the piece. As they are mandatory, they can often not be forged (a modern reproduction of an old piece still needs a current hallmark to comply with the law). Checking for hallmarks that are contemporary with the period the piece is supposedly from may help in determining its authenticity. But, be aware that not all pieces are hallmarked, especially older ones. Most countries in North Africa and Southwest Asia only adopted a hallmarking system in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many pieces older than that will not have been hallmarked, or may have been hallmarked only when a piece was eventually sold.

Provenance: And finally, there is the provenance of a piece that may help determine its authenticity. Provenance is the history of a piece of jewellery, and this is where the paperwork comes in. Particularly for older pieces, provenance may help to establish whether a piece is indeed as old as is claimed: are there any sources that will confirm this exact piece has been in a family for decades? With traditional jewellery, this is a difficult path. Many heirloom pieces that are sold do not come with receipts of purchase, as they have been handed down within a family for generations.  And like anything else, provenance can be forged, too: it’s not that difficult to provide an old-looking piece of paper (if it can be done with papyri, it can be done with receipts!).

Determining the authenticity of a piece of jewellery is a process that involves all of these together: the more you familiarize yourself with jewellery through handling, seeing and reading, the easier it will be to distinguish reproductions from authentic pieces!

References

[1] Broekhoven & A. Geurds 2013. Creating authenticity : authentication processes in ethnographic museums. Sidestone Press (read online for free)

Sigrid van Roode

Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.

Storing silver

Storing silver

four tips

Storing silver

Silver tarnishes easily when exposed to air and moisture, but there are many other sources that cause a chemical reaction in the silver. That includes people: I’m sure you know several people whose silver jewellery turns dark after a day of wearing, and others whose silver shines even brighter after that same day!  It’s also a relatively soft material that scratches and dents faster than you might like, and vintage silver items are no different. Storing and handling silver always should come with the protection of your items in mind. So here are 4 tips to start storing your silver jewellery in an optimal way!

1) Keep your pieces separate Store each piece individually and make sure it does not rub against other items. This can be achieved in the simplest way by just wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper, anti-tarnish paper or soft cloth (but not wool). Larger items, such as complete sets of fibulas for example, can be wrapped in bubble plastic, again taking care that the individual fibulas are kept from direct contact.

2) Make sure your pieces are clean and dry before storing them If you wear your vintage jewellery, make sure it is clean and dry before you store your items away. Sweat and skin contact can damage silver in the long run, so wipe them off and make sure they are dry before storing them. The same goes for when they have just been cleaned: wait until they are completely dry before storing them, or better, have a professional clean them instead. More about cleaning silver is here.

3) Keep your pieces locked away from air Store them in an airtight box or individual zip pouches. Zip pouches come in many sizes: choose the size that fits your piece snugly, but gives it room to move a little. Wrap your pieces in acid free paper before putting them into a zip pouch: the pouch itself may contain abrasive materials that could scratch your silver. Airtight boxes don’t have to be anything fancy, but can simply be the type of box you store food in (refridgerator boxes, but also cookiejars work well – make sure they have no rubber bands, though). Adding silica gel (those little packages that come with new shoes, handbags and other leather products) or activated charcoal will absorb moisture and keep your silver from tarnishing. Avoid direct contact of these materials with your silver, though: make sure the packaging is not damaged.

4) … and what not to use Do not wrap your silver in pages torn from newspapers or magazines: both the ink and the paper will harm it. The same goes for the use of rubber bands (no bundling bracelets together using rubber bands, please) Those rustic looking, uncoated wooden boxes that make for excellent atmospheric photos are not as fantastic for storing silver, either, unless it is packaged in zip pouches. That also applies to wooden chests of drawers, cabinets and cupboards: avoid direct contact, and even then, check regularly. Wool also contains agents that may react with silver: that explains why silver elements on a woolen headdress for example turn dark every so often.

Taking care to store your silver properly will go a long way in helping you enjoy your collection for years to come!

References

Learn more about silver tarnishing and how to avoid it here

Sigrid van Roode

Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.