Christian Long

Marisa Fick Jordan: Wonder of Zulu Wire Art

In TED Talks on April 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Reflection by VIVIAN H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Marisa Fick Jordan:  Wonder of Zulu Wire Art

“Modernization actually brought communication and a whole new material in the form of telephone wire. Rural to urban migration meant that newfound industrial materials started to replace hard-to-come-by natural grasses.”

There is a mystical quality that dyes the fabric of dated items from the past, yet a fascinating drive to explore the possibilities presented by the future. Here, Marisa Fick Jordan gives a short talk on Zulu wire art which combines just the right amount of cultural flavor to the passage of modern times, satisfying both desires.

This integration of modern and traditional is not black and white nor hinging on the benefits and downfalls that industrialization can bring. There are ups and downs to every change, and in the process of creating something new you have to lose a little bit of both sides. For instance, it is true that converting to newfound industrial materials leads to loss of authentic materials used in the past. However modernization must also tread carefully, as not to destroy the unique quality of traditional basket weaving through excessive commercial methods.

From this delicate balance emerges a new style of basket weaving that reflects the past within the future.

The picture above is a an example of Zulu Wire Art, a contemporary basket made with the traditional methods of basket weaving. The stark contrast between black and white present a more modern element, while the interwoven wires emit the handcrafted authenticity of the Durban culture.

Modernization does not mean the extinguishment of the past, instead it is a combination that allows part of the past to survive by fusing old memories into the present so it is not forgotten. In every culture there has been an evolution of preexisting ideas to preserve fragments of the old customs. After all, is this not how the Romantic languages, derived from Latin roots, kept the essence of ancient Rome alive?

Communication has also been strengthened with the rise of modernization. New ties and bonds are established with the use of more recent technology. Now, resources have now expanded, consolidating the connection between rural and urban areas. Unconventional concepts are transmitted both ways in order to reach new boundaries. This development allowed the birth of Zulu wire art to created a link between simple customs and more technologically intricate lives. From this synthesis new ways of thinking are provided for people on both ends of the spectrum.

“And I got the opportunity to start working with this community at that point, and started developing, really, and mentoring them in terms of scale, in terms of the design.” Widespread technology has also allowed knowledge to dipserse to different corners of ethnicity around the world. More people have access to education in order to improve the standards of their skills, and thus provide more quantity in terms of products.

In the case of Zulu wire art Jordan declares, “the project soon grew from five to 50 weavers in about a year. Soon we had outgrown the scrap yards, what they could provide, so we coerced a wire manufacturer to help us, and not only to supply the materials on bobbins but to produce to our color specifications.”

The expansion of the Zulu wire production, has made quite an impact on the lifestyle of the weavers as well. The main group of weavers “come to Durban on a weekly basis, and all have bank accounts. They’ve all moved back to the rural area where they came from. It’s a weekly turnaround of production.”

I believe this project has inspired more widespread appreciation for local culture in modern times.

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