To continue with Elizabeth’s Kolbert’s river metaphor, I am reminded of a gift a friend who knew me too well gave me at the beginning of my ministry. It was a poster of a landscape featuring a river. The caption beneath it read, “Don’t push the river”. This intrinsically Taoist wisdom taunted me from its primacy of place on the wall facing my desk. All my stereotypic male traits wanted to move the river faster; straighten its meandering nature; keep it carefully constrained within its banks. There was way too much to be done to accept the river’s natural pace. The river’s course might be more picturesque, but posters be damned, it wasn’t efficient or fit for purpose from my limited view. Time to push it.
Optical illusions are fun. In part because they are universal as far as I know. The word illusion comes from the Latin word illudere, meaning “to mock”. These illusions trick our brains into perceiving something different from physical reality. Three common ones are illusory motion (images that appear to be moving), double pictures (images that contain two pictures in one), and impossible objects (images that make sense when drawn on paper, but which could never exist in real life!).
This talk is an introduction to one story (there are many) of how the ancient arts of weaving and embroidery are being revived amongst the artisans of Gujarat and West Bengal in India. The story is told through my eyes, which were opened on a Traditional Textiles tour to India in 2019.
I joined Joji’s Jacob’s Traditional Textiles of India Tour in October 2019. It was dazzling!
India: drenched in colour, the vibrancy of the people, the fascinating accommodation including the 19th century Itachuna Rajbari in West Bengal, or the luxurious Taj Mahal hotel in Lucknow the Terracotta Temples, the idol makers workshops in Kolkata, the stunning traditional weaving and embroideries, the breath-taking ancient step wells whose stories are carved into the stone walls and pillars. And…the Chambal River ride alive with crocodiles and gharials. All of these will linger long in my memory.
But today, I want to talk about one of the major reasons for my choosing this tour over the many others, that was the social justice emphasis on supporting the revival of the ancient weaving and embroidery arts by the artisans of India, that were almost lost due the deliberate, brutal repressive policies of the British East India Company and later the British Raj.
Reading: The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch
The skeleton of the great moa on iron crutches Broods over no great waste; a private swamp Was where this tree grew feathers once, that hatches Its dusty clutch, and guards them from the damp.
Interesting failure to adapt on islands, Taller but not more fallen than I, who come Bone to his bone, peculiarly New Zealand’s. The eyes of children flicker round this tomb
Under the skylights, wonder at the huge egg Found in a thousand pieces, pieced together But with less patience that’s the bones that dug In time deep shelter against ocean weather:
Not I, some child born in a marvellous year, Will learn the trick of standing upright here.
Allen Curnow, 1943
Musings: The art of walking upright here
Last week was Waitangi Day. Marking the signing on 6 February 1840 of Te tiriti o Waitangi. So it may seem as though today’s service is a week late. To adapt a Christmas poem:
“When the waiata on the marae is stilled, when the sound from the megaphone is gone, When the rangatira and the manuhiri are home, when the workers are back in their workplaces, Then the work of Waitangi begins”
The work of Waitangi is the work of all of us, no matter how much we feel we know or don’t know.
Have you heard the phrase ‘there’s an elephant in the room’?…this is just a metaphor
for an important or enormous topic that is obvious but no one mentions or wants to discuss it because it might make them uncomfortable or is personally, socially, or politically embarrassing. However, we Unitarians like digging into important discussions, so I searched for
‘Elephant in the room quotes’ to trumpet out for us today….here are a few of my favourites…