Blog Post #7 : Artifacts without the Flash or Glamour

Featured in Tedx Talks, archaeologist Sada Mire discusses how cultural heritage is a basic human need. Through her experience with African culture ( in her video she primarily discusses Somalis), she explains how the women recalled ancient traditions,such as rug weaving, and hut construction passed down from generation to generation. Sada was surprised the women did not place importance on the actual tangible objects which archaeologists revered, and prized over, but the knowledge on how to construct such ‘artifacts.’ While on this archaeological expedition, when speaking to the Somalian women she discovered they did not care for the very artifacts she searched for, as they could construct their own, but they cherished the memories and experiences associated with their own version of these objects. She explains to the conference this knowledge of their cultural heritage provides future generation with the knowledge to survive in their environment, deeming cultural heritage as a basic human need.  When incorporating this source into my project I originally used it to convey the that objects gains significance and meaning through individualistic perspective. In the case of this source, individualistic changes to a culture’s perspective but the same theory applies. What I found interesting about this source is it provides an answer to why the actual tangible object is necessary. One thing I questioned Mire about was concerning her overall statement saying cultural heritage is a basic human need essentially states the oral communication of these tradition is necessary but not the actual object. She doesn’t place much emphasis on the actual artifacts and objects she discusses. Yet without the tangible object to display and use an anecdote, oral communication might not suffice by itself.Hence this proposes the question how necessary are these objects in correlation with cultural heritage and basic human needs. Without the object how necessary would culture heritage become for a basic human need? This source brought to mind how necessary objects become for not just individuals but societies and cultures as a whole. Myself now being a materialistic person, I don’t believe one really needs any of much objects for a survival and that our society is over-indulgent. Yet I’ve learned that objects provide genuine use for humans. Not just the  knowledge or practicals it provides, but also the feelings and memories we associated with them giving us our unique sense of self and humanity.


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One thought on “Blog Post #7 : Artifacts without the Flash or Glamour”

  1. The fact that there are living communities that privilege oral cultural heritage without placing much interest on the material artifacts produced by that heritage is quite interesting and maybe difficult to understand. Difficult because the Western concept of the centrality of material objects is something deeply impressed in my mind. However, if one thinks about it, this idea of heritage based on experience rather than material evidence makes sense, especially in those parts of the world in which knowledge is essential in order to survive. For instance, I have no idea how to build a wicker basket because the basket is already there, available and built by somebody else who has that specific knowledge. In Somalia, there is no store that people can go to. They need a cultural heritage that provides that information so they can build one and use it to carry things around. A wicker basket is not vital for me, but it must be vital for them, from what I can assume. In the same way, the object is non influential, while the heritage is everything. Considering things from this point of view, it’s not that difficult to understand why they easily dismiss what archaeologists consider precious and irreplaceable artifacts. This difference in the way in which humans value and treat their material reality is very fascinating.

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