Mexican Papel Picado

Papel picado is a traditional Mexican folk art of colorful tissue paper cut with intricate designs.  Artists string the individual papers to form banners that are used for a number of holidays and festivals.  For the Day of the Dead, banners with skeleton themes, like this one, are hung around the offering and often in public squares as well.  Artists cut the paper by hand with tiny, very sharp chisels.  They follow a pattern and place a lead plate at the bottom of a stack of paper, so they can cut through as many as 50 sheets at once.  Cut plastic instead of paper is a new innovation that allows the decorations to survive outdoors in the wind and rain.  This piece of papel picado is currently on exhibit in Life After Death: The Day of the Dead in Mexico with a number of others in paper and plastic.




MOA to Recognize Indigenous Peoples Day

In 1992, a group of indigenous activists successfully petitioned the city of Berkeley to declare Columbus Day as a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” as a means of drawing attention to Native history, culture, and social justice during the Quincentennial celebration of the Columbus voyage.  This event marks the first civic celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, which has since grown in popularity and spread to other cities, state governments, and universities.  In North Carolina, NCSU adopted an official Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration in place of Columbus Day in 2015, as did the city government of Carrboro, followed by the city of Asheville in 2016. The Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology supports this re-focusing of the public holiday to celebrate the lives, cultures, and contributions of indigenous peoples. To this end, MOA will host several public events on October 9, 2017, to mark the holiday.

1:00pm-2:00pm Brown Bag Talk
Master metalsmith William Rogers has conducted extensive research in the use of copper by Native peoples and helped lead an effort to revive the craft of metalworking among members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.  He will speak on the ancient technologies used in metalworking, sharing his research and interest in craft revitalization.  He will demonstrate the techniques used to transform a piece of native copper into an art piece.  Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch to enjoy during the talk.  Free and open to the public.

2:00pm-5:00pm Copper Workshop
Rogers will lead a hands-on workshop in which participants make copper pendants or badges using ancient techniques.  Examples of NC Native American copper artifacts will serve as inspiration.  Students will have a chance to temporarily display their art pieces at the Museum. Participants should attend 1pm talk.  $20 per person, WFU students free.  All materials included. Space is limited.  Pre-registration is required.  Email or call 336.758.5282.

 5:00pm-6:15pm Reception
Enjoy light refreshments and mingle with guests while viewing a temporary exhibit on copper and trade in pre-European contact North Carolina.  Free and open to the public.

 6:30pm-7:30pm NC Indigenous Revitalization Panel Discussion
Nora Stanley-Dial, member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and board member of the Community Foundation for Greater Greensboro, Dr. Tom Belt, member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and coordinator of the Cherokee Language Program at Western Carolina University, and Dr. Margaret Bender, Associate Professor of linguistic anthropology at Wake Forest University, will discuss the concept of indigenous cultural revitalization in North Carolina with a focus on language and celebration.  Free and open to the public.

These events are sponsored by the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Intercultural Center, and Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies program.

Zuni Fetish

This small carving, known as a fetish, came from the native people of Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.  In the early 1980s, Zuni artist Otis Neecy carved this bear from pink soapstone using a traditional pump drill and placed turquoise chips for the eyes.  A projectile point is tied to its back.  The bear is a depiction of a Zuni animal god, which, in fetish form, holds the spirit of the animal.  In Zuni society, fetish sculptures are particularly important for their function in the hunt.  The Zuni believe that carnivorous animals possess a spiritual or magical influence over their prey.  The human hunter must try to harness this spirit from a beast of prey.  Because fetishes retain the spirit of the animals depicted, they are indispensable to Zuni hunters. The arrowhead bound to this sculpture may allude to its significance in hunting.  Once limited to the members of specific priesthoods, the creation of fetish sculptures became more commercialized as the market for Native American cultural artifacts and art increased in the 20th century.

David Mulder, student in Anthropology 190, Spring 2017, conducted the research for this post.

Bedouin Rug

This Bedouin rug was purchased in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, but made in the ancient town of Madaba.  The Arabic-speaking Bedouin are a nomadic people who live across the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa.  Bedouins in the area of Jordan are traditionally sheep or goat herders, which allowed them to develop a strong weaving tradition using the wool gathered from their own herds.  Weavers, conventionally women, make many items suited to a mobile life including rugs, pillows, and other domestic goods.  Bedouin geometric patterns, like the ones found in this rug, influenced many other weavers around the world.  Bedouin designs are found across North Africa, which influenced the Spanish, which in turn inspired Navajo designs once they arrived in the New World.  The rug is currently on display in the Museum in preparation for our July 23 workshop on world textiles.


Yam Mask

The population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most diverse in the world.  There are more than 800 languages spoken, and many small communities have developed unique customs and traditions.  This yam mask comes from the Saragum #2 village in the Maprik area of the East Sepik Province.  In this area of the country, the cultivation of long yams, which can grow to a length of 12 feet, is a core element of ceremonial life.  These yams have a purely ritual purpose and are not meant to be eaten.  Following the harvest, an extravagant ceremony takes place during which each man exchanges the yams he has grown with those of a permanent partner.  The man who is able to repeatedly offer yams longer than those that he receives gains great social status.  For the exchange ceremony, the yams are outfitted as men in full ritual costume including masks like this one.  The masks are designed specifically for the yams and are not worn by people.  Constructed of woven plant fiber, similar to a basket, the masks are colored with clay pigments.  This mask is in form known as beak style, in which the human face is represented with a long nose similar to the beak of a bird.

Museum to Close for the Month of August

Thanks to the generosity of the University administration and the MOA Friends, the Museum will undertake two renovation projects this August, resulting in the temporary closure of the galleries from July 31 to September 4.  The first project is a complete remodel of the front desk area of the Museum.  The existing built-in furniture will be replaced with a new front desk and student work space that will have a smaller footprint and result in more flexible use space.  The entire Museum will also be re-carpeted as part of this project.  Secondly, during this time, the permanent exhibit space that currently houses How Do They Know? The Science of Archaeology in the Yadkin River Valley will be renovated.  The exhibit will taken down and the gallery will be modified to prepare it for the installation of a new permanent exhibit covering the four fields of anthropology in North Carolina.  The Museum staff will be working regular hours during this time period and can be contacted by phone or email.