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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 7:54 am 

Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2004 7:45 am
Posts: 142
Wow! What a convoluted thread. From a baby carrier to books and back to baby carriers again.
I have found in my own limited research that trying to make geographic or ethnic provenance based on style is difficult or impossible in a number of cases.
In a place like Shidong, Guizhou where the Miao are absolutely culturally dominant it is easy to see a particular item as belonging to that area. When you travel to some areas of southeastern Guizhou and northern Guangxi it becomes more problematic. There you have a situation of different ethnic groups influencing one another with regard to style. Maonan and Zhuang blankets from Huanjiang County, Guangxi are virtually indistinguishable. The Maonan have a couple of varieties of baby carrier which are unique to themselves. They also have embroidered carriers which are identical to the neighboring Zhuang.
Where the minority Miao are surrounded by Dong in southeastern Guizhou, the Miao have adopted many attributes of dress similar to their Dong neighbors. The same is true in Guangxi moving southwest from Sanjiang across north central Guangxi, where the Miao have adopted many Dong design motifs and sometimes also borrowed from the local Yao and vice versa (see the 4 volume Guangxi Minorities Colourful Costumes for myriad examples)... or did the Dong adopt them from the Miao? Part of the cultural transmission was probably related to survival, another part the natural human tendency to be excited b the introduction of something new.

These attributions are really entertaining, but often problematic, unless you collected the piece yourself, have a rock solid provenance or a particular style is exclusive to one area. I am all in favor of enthusiasm and curiousity though. It seems Iain has brought new energy and enthusiasm to the forum, great.

If one had unlimited time, a great deal of money and a team of many researchers a study could be undertaken to "map" the distribution of styles across Hunan, Guizhou, Guangxi and part of Yunnan.
Since that is probably not going to happen anytime soon let's all keep trying to utilize this forum to the fullest and learn from one another.


 Post subject: Attributions
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 3:10 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:30 am
Posts: 315
Yes to the problems associated with influence and therefore attribution that you mention, Steven. Perhaps a further aspect associated with definitive attribution may involve the influence of 'cultural' tourism directing the individuals towards production of a certain style/motif/technique. This may be seen in many parts of Southern Africa where the tourist route and trade has not always positively impacted on local populations...
It would of course be fantastic to get to grips with mapping influences (itself fraught with the researchers own subjectivity?) and who knows possibly this may still happen! Individuals wishing to finance a possible research grant to enable me to do this would be welcome!

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 5:09 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
Posts: 393
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Steven's last post (16 April) on the Maonan baby carrier thread highlights the problematic aspects of attribution, and how in China the differences are reduced to a village level, rather than even regional. Steven, Iain, and Pamela have shown that to be absolutely sure of the source and attribution, one must either collect in the field, or acquire from a trusted and knowledgeable source who does. Research results are also useful if the researcher has been meticulous in method and has fluency in the language.

Speaking of possible stylistic influences: one seen in northern Thailand and Laos is the allegiance to a ruler, or the tributary system, which used textiles (especially clothing) to show group identity under the rule of a specific leader. As leaders changed, so did allegiances and consequently, textiles. Patricia Cheesman has brought this to light in her book Lao-Tai Textiles. We currently have a modern, but less interesting, version of this in Thailand with everyone donning yellow shirts in honor of the King (his birth day was Monday, and yellow is the color for Monday).

Susan Stem

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