Sunday, January 06, 2008
Can I gripe for just a sec?
I thought I could. Thanks.
I've been collecting tribal jewelry for a little over a decade now. I mean, here and there when I was younger, I'd pick up tribal pieces but with no real intent on collecting and not much interest in divining the origin of these pieces.
These days, I do collect and care about the origin of tribal jewelry. I especially love hill tribe pieces from the Turkmenistan in Central Asia (Tekke, Turkoman) and the Karen hill tribe silver pieces from the remote reaches of Thailand, and I love the work of the Naga in northeast India and Tuareg pieces of North Africa. In glass I have sandcast beads from various parts of Africa (lots from Ghana) and some sandcast and whitehearts from Asia. When possible, I buy and wear intact pieces, but if I can get my mitts on fragments or loose components, I incorporate those into the jewelry I design. I haven't made a single piece of jewelry in probably 5 years that hasn't included at least some Thai Tribal stuff, which has long been a favorite.
You may have noticed there aren't a lot of tribal jewelry emporia dotted about the country here, so for a long time I've relied on finding pieces on ebay to supplement what bits and bobs I glean from combing the bins at wholesale supply shows. Once was a time when I could do a search in ebay using only the terms "tribal" and "jewelry" and positively scads of gorgeous ethnic pieces from the world over would pop into view.
Not so now.
If you go to ebay and search "tribal" and "jewelry" in order to get to the maybe 300 or so pieces that truly fit that description, you must now wade through thousands of modern-primitive neo-hippie type crap the denizens of Burning Man perceive to be "tribal."
This is endlessly irritating. In fact, just because it's got that stupid yoga symbol (namaste, asshats!) and is carved out of bamboo or some such does not make it tribal. In fact, I have news for this stinky deodorant-free vegan neo-hippie generation - y'all have turned that grommet-through-the-earlobe and deadlock thing into such a groupthink trend event that I totally swear that your neo-pagan shit is your generation's jellies-&-banana clip. Think about it. Many of you will come to regret the holes in your earlobes you could drive a tractor through. In that mellow settling-in period of middle age, you'll reflect with horror the possibility of what your children will have to do to rebel against you(prolly be nerdy, wear button-down shirts and vote Republican), and you'll wonder what you were thinking, hanging out with a bunch of folks who were just opportunists looking for a good excuse to be ne'er-do-well wastrels. But you'll go through some real crap before you figure all that out, and my heart goes out to you, really, but in the process, you'll go on futzing about and muddying the waters on what is/isn't a genuine artifact from (some cases) obscure cultures that need to be recognized for superb craftsmanship.
But that shit you're wearing? The new stuff made out of eco-friendly materials by sweatshop kids in India and China? That ain't tribal, baby, and I'm sick of you gumming up commerce by calling stuff what it ain't. Call it "modern primitive" jewelry, or somesuch. Think of something original (I know, it's hard to do), but that stuff looks too new and too slick to fit the bill of "pagan" that you so love spit-gluing onto everything.
And while I'm at it: hey you! Get off of my cloud!