The article, “Khat and the Creation of Tradition in the Somali Diaspora” by Axel Klein discusses how the truth about the history and use of the drug came to have such a dominant place in the Somali community and the conflicts its acceptance have created. Klein may argue that “ khat may be part of the culture, but its not part of history” however, I think it is irrelevant because of the vast economic, social and psychological effects of the drug on the individuals taking it today. It is a part of their history today and that makes it a part of the culture. Klein makes a good argument when he says that the problems khat users have with unemployment and poverty as a reason for khat’ increased use as opposed the the chemical effects of the drug may be true to a point because being in a new place and not being able to find work is hard for anyone, however, being high chewing khat all day would not change things either. It seems this argument is a cop-out for the men involved being that they are causing further stress on their already strained family relationships especially in refugee situations. It is a bad sign when a community is enarmored with a shrub because it means among other things that the earth is their lord instead of they are the lords of the earth. This is reflected in the loss of control over their lives. How does a community allow a shrub to determine who they are?

The article “Bundles of Choice” by Neil Carrier discusses how Miraa is produced, distributed and sold in Africa and the international market. It has a long process which encourages specializing and connoisseurship on the plant’ varieties and areas where it is produced and preferred. It also points out how the Miraa is valued so as to develop entrepreneurship. The drug seems to have some benefits in terms of providing and uplifting physical and psychological effects but because it is consumed in such a large amount, it causes more problems that it benefits and seems to cause further instability amongst a group that is already unstable due to cultural and economical shifts. The chewing of Miraa seems to occupy a large part of the communities involved and they spend a lot of time refining how to make and present the produce better.

The article is very well written and easy to follow. The author makes the reader realize that this shrub has a huge control over the lives of these communities both economically psychologically, and socially.

Klein’s focuses on the social implications of Khat specifically on the Somali community which has experienced a tearing of its identity. Khat users claiming that chewing is a part of their culture seems to be trying to restore that identity through this product.

Carrier’s article makes a very informative and clear discussion of the enormity of the acceptance of the shrub on many African societies led by the Somalis. I thought this was very well articulated how thoroughly controlled this substance is and this further shows that they can do better than creating excuses regarding Khat use and its effects on their communities. I think both articles marry the production of the drug and it’s social effects very well.

Geraldine

The article by Ray Allen “traces the emergence of Brooklyn’s J’Ouvert festival in the larger context of New York Carnival, and considers the event’s role in the revitalization of older Carnival traditions in Brooklyn’s Trinidad-American community.”

“J’Ouvert remains a grassroots celebration of Trinidadian pan, calypso, and ole mas-deep cultural symbols that offer trans-planted Trinidadians and their American-born children the possibility of connecting across space to their native homeland, and back in time to their African ancestors who processed through the streets of Port of Spain with drums and Camboulay torches to celebrate their independence from slavery.” This carnival aids in reinforcing identity and the notion of home not only in Trinidad but also to Africa where carnival originated.

Chapter1

The author examines the locality of steelpan music and its connection to the lower class people who are largely African descended and to the African religious practices of the Orishas which pan originates. It also notes the struggles and fierce resistance of the people in these areas that shows the trajectory of the success of the music from the poor to the middle class to success on the worlds’ stage through the Panorama music venue.

The author also looks at the notion of nostalgia and decline and loss of the “spirit of pan

He also talks about the influence of the Orisha religion and how pan is an instrument of “spirit” because it honours the spirit Shango even though the devotees who practice the religion are feared. They have a fearless aggressive attitude during possession or manifestation of Orisha deities. The author points out the “spirit manifestation and resistance points to the deep connection between music and politics in Trinidad. Whether in relation to slavery, colonial domination, nationalism, or class and ethnic tensions, the tendency to reflect, resist, or transcend political circumstances is fundamental to the spirit of carnival music in general and pan in particular.”

Playing the pan calls the spirit  “on some level of awareness, an indicatior of the steel pan’ cultural roots and spiritual power.” The practice of this religion allows the people to resist “elitist values and control,” and reject the institutionalization of what they produce.

However, the problem of erasure of its social roots that link Trinidad’ unique cultural history to a broader pattern of postcolonial nationalism”

Chap6

The author examines pan symbol of national culture where the issue of how a venue like Panorama affords steel pan prominence and status but is framed and controlled by sponsors.

Chap12

The author discusses the notion of popular nationalism and the role of sentiment in nationalism and how it must “address the seriousness of play.” There is a desire to control play but, “the unpredictability of play is thus both necessary and problematic for those who wield power.” steelbands are of and from the people who are marginalized for being African and poor and they created a way to play collectively.

Gage Averill’ article focuses on how the West Indian community in New York retains its distinctiveness by retaining their accents and music which they use as markers for their uniqueness. They want to pursue the “American dream” as Caribbean Americans. They possess all the characteristics of diasporic issues: identity, hybridity, community and social commentary. They view the Carnival experience as “cathartic”. The music of Carnival and bacchanal confirms Caribbean identity and helps to ease the “transition of West Indians to different social and cultural systems.”4

Articles similar to Mannur’ article on how she experienced foods from different parts of India because she lived in Indian diaspora communities around the world. Steelpanning is now a transnational, transcultural phenomenon around the world including Toronto, London and Brooklyn.

I think religion plays a pivotal role in music and non-Western cultures understand this more than the West. When an instrument is dedicated to a deity it has to be played the way the spirit wants. It is referred to in some places as “calling the spirit” and when the spirit comes it is manifested through the medium for that spirit (ie priest, priestess, pastor, prophet, etc.) or whoever is present if the spirit so chooses. The people’ behavior at each part of the ceremony tells you the nature of the spirit being manifested. For example the author mentions the first part of the carnival is somber, and quieter with ghoulish costumes and mask etc. There is a type of offering offered to the deity at some time and the celebrative part is the carnival where everyone can participate, hence, one reason why there is so much strife or as they say bacchanal at these carnivals. There is a standing but quietly kept joke among West Indians and it’s “when girls go to carnival many of them come home with babies in their bellies.” This is because these festivals can be really, really wild. It is also similar to the celebration of Saturn called Saturnia during the reign of the Romans.

The Steelpan is a way for the people to reinforce their identity not just to each other as noted but also to forge and reinforce their relationship with the Yoruba, Orisha gods and goddesses of Africa. This gives them their spiritual identity and the power they need to resist forces that can sever these ties. The locality of the Steelpan is as important as the locality of the Orisha religion.

Would continental Africans who practice the Yoruba religions consider carnival in the West authentic ?


The Mintz article “Food and Diaspora” discusses the Anthropology of how food travels around the globe and contributes to the production and reproduction of ethnic, religious, class, and national identities. (510) He also mentions the concerns of the effects of globalization and environmental effects on food supply and on “food sovereignty” of different regions. He also mentions the changes that are happening in different nations such as France in relation to the study of food.

His main focus is the movement of food and the movement of people and how they overlap at times and create the transnational and transcultural nature of food today. He mentions two primary causes of changes in food behavior which are the “enslaved Africans to the Americas and “the global transoceanic movement of people, mostly for work, that marked the nineteenth century.” It is these two conditions that Mintz states that food can move without people and people without food. Thus food and people adapt and adopt to new environments as circumstances allow.

I think the article was well paced even though I found his opinions on humans being “animals that cook” and then to just humans confusing and annoying. (513) However, he got back to and remained with our humanity. The idea of two major food movements 1: without humans as he calls “diffusion” and 2: humans moving without food and their histories is very interesting because I have never thought about this before. Also how the first have very little written about it because it was introduced by the “Other” and the second introduced by the dominant culture is widely recorded. Mintz mentions how lack of recorded food behaviour is parallel to the prosperity of people. So in countries with European migrants food behaviours are well documented but not so with countries controlled by Europeans but have a non-European population. But these non-Europeans still managed to “succeed in recreating some part of their food practices.”(521)

The Gourmitization of Hummus in Israel and the Return of the Repressed Arab” article examine the “cultural biography” of hummus in Israel from the Mandate period to the present and argues the place of Arabness in the discourse taking hummus to be an essential “food of the Other” (617). This article shows how politicalized a food object can become in a conflicted environment. The Israelis adopted Hummus as a national dish without the acknowledgment of its Arab origins. It becomes a symbol of Arab suppression in the authors view. However, the Israelis prefer their hummus be made by Arab because it is considered more ‘authentic’. I don’t understand how mashed chickpeas determine identity. If chickpeas is indigenous to that area who knows how long it has been there? Also Palestinian Arabs did not seem to contest hummus becoming a part of Israeli identity. It would seem that only when there was an intense conflict this becomes an issue.

The idea of Palestinian Arabs being considered more connected to the land through hummus seems far reaching. I think that it is normal to seek out food from your environment and use it for identity and/or commerce but at the end of the day it is just chickpeas.

The language of food.

Would anybody really want their identity to be based on food? Why or why not? What does your food say about you or your culture and how does it say it?

Mintz seems very optimistic about the future of food while encouraging students to keep “locality and culture in mind”. Why do you think he emphasized this point?

A picture of a pipe isn’t necessarily a pipe; an image of “African fabric” isn’t necessarily authentically [and wholly] African”. quoted by Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian-British contemporary artist known for his amazing artwork using African print fabrics in his scrutiny of colonialism and post-colonialism.

My questions regarding African wax prints are who decide what authentic African fabric is?
Most people do not know the history of African wax print fabrics. Like myself I assume it was of African origins side it is so widely worn in West Africa. I would like to correct this misconception and clarify how it came to be ‘African’ and why and how the African diasporic community incorporates the cloth in its perceptions of Africa.

What role does Afro-European history play in this authenticity and how does this affect African diasporic identity?
Here I want to provide an understanding of how and why the Europeans came to be the exporters of the African wax print into Africa and how it affected to traditional production of textiles. Also how the fabric was received. It is also interesting that the ‘middlemen’ used to sell this product were women and how this product was marketed by them in Africa. I also want to explore how this affects the diasporic African community whether or not they know of this history and their response.

Does objectification and commoditization of this cloth alters the sense of African in the diasporic identity?
This fabric is widely worn by Western Africans and often bought by diasporic Africans as a way to incorporate ‘Africa’ into their lives. I wonder how does buying and selling the fabric affects identification with Africa? I also want to show how Africans have changed the fabric by customizing them to reflect their own cultural and religious values.

February 9, 2012

Geraldine

 

The African Wax-print textile is a study in authenticity. Its origins although not African but European and Asian have become known as an ‘African’ fabric and thus have taken on what many especially in the West perceive it to be African. It was first introduced and sold in Africa largely by female sellers. Today it is sold in Britain and America to the African diaspora as authentic African fabric.

 

It is used as clothing and as decoration of home and furniture and also as a way to identify with Africa. In Africa it is used mostly for clothing and the only one accepted by Africans are the original European/Asian designs as oppose to the ones produced in China today. They consider the Chinese made cloth of lesser quality.

 

The use of it varies with audience in that the Americans and British use it as a signifier of African identity and continental Africans use it for its affordability. Therefore, in the West it conveys more meaning on a psychological level than with the Africans themselves.

 

February 2, 2012

Object Historical Context

Geraldine

 

Ownership of African textiles as are varied as Africa itself and its relationship to the rest of the world. They can be owned by individuals, groups and institutions. Groups such as the Ashanti of Ghana whose Kente cloth holds a special importance to the Ashanti and has become world renowned and other cloths are owned by institutions and individuals since the eighteenth century.

 

In the transnational diasporic contexts ownership comes in the works of contemporary artists such as Yinka Shonibare and fashion styles worn in the West by Africans of the diaspora. One of the changes in the use of African textiles is in spiritual and cultural meanings such as funerary and rituals such as marriage but in the West these connections are longer practiced.

 

African textiles have travelled due to changes in economies and major migrations throughout Africa and the world. Textiles have travelled through routes such as the Silk Road, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the Atlantic Slave Trade where slaves were sometimes exchanged for pieces of cloths and transnationally within Africa.

 

The research in these textiles made me see the richness of African cultures. They are very committed to excellence in craftsmanship as well as retaining the cultural and religious meanings. I also see the way they are viewed and valued in the West and how Africans of the diaspora have held on to their connection with Africa through African textiles they purchase or create themselves.

 

I can see how people can develop a desire for African textiles. They are extremely visually captivating and this may be because African textiles are made for aesthetic reasons. They don’t primarily dress for protection therefore; they were free to focus on beauty and meaning. It’s a luxury not only to own but to see.

Its current uses relate to its uses in the past in the strong use of colour and design that is always contemporary in feel and I thing that is why there is still such a strong interest in them today.

Geraldine Chambers
January 25, 2012

The materiality of African textile is as varied as the continent of Africa and its diaspora. I would like to look at the textiles and how it is used within diaspora on the continent and beyond its borders from the nineteenth century to the present. There is a large array of textile including Raffia, (which is not technically a textile), Mud Cloth, Wax Print, Kente and Indigo and others. I want to explore their meanings from the past and their meanings today in Africa and the diaspora. Also what they were used for and how they are used and presented in contemporary art today.
The mode of production also varies due to changes in economies of the countries where the textiles are produced. Some artist use traditional weaving techniques while others use embroidery or tie dye methods. Artist such as photographers use textiles to address issues of identity and cross-cultural discourses. There is also the use of different materials such as synthetic dyes (i.e. acrylic), natural dyes (i.e. plant). Also I want to look at the textile industries and how they produce textiles especially in South and West Africa and Africa’ relationship other countries such as China in textile production.
The designs are often based on traditional styles but contemporary artists use them differently to show changes in the cultures they inhabit be it Africa, Europe or the Caribbean. Today’s’ artist want to acknowledge their African heritage but there is a desire to move forward and produce work as artists. They want to their works to reflect the world they live in and how the cross-cultural influences speak to their works.
African textiles have also taken on different meanings in diasporic environs such as Surinam and the Caribbean where issues of identity and authenticity are constant reminders of a place no longer familiar. I want to compare old and new meanings and old and new uses for these textiles.