May 26, 2021
Prompt 21 – What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?
Object 1: Selected Verse from Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu Scripture containing 10 morals. In the verse a war is occurring and Arjuna sees his uncles and cousins. He questions himself the futility of victory as a warrior when his relatives would be dead. Krishna who’s considered God in human form intervenes giving Arjuna wisdom. Krishna stated wars exist in mind, hence winning against the mind is step one to achieving success in the battlefield and life. The knowledge of being a warrior and not fighting will define failure of his duty
This object enriches the exhibition since culture influences Arjuna’s knowledge and thus, the way Krishna shares it, helping Arjuna be a true warrior. Language is a medium used to pass knowledge existing in our communities to solve problems becoming essential to achieve success. For example, Rishi Sandipani, a Guru taught these teachings to Krishna, then passed to Arjuna’s life experiences in the war. Culture creates a context for social interaction determining how one can perceive and share knowledge. Culture enriched with morals is used as a mean of communicating wisdom known as knowledge. This wisdom is passed down as a valuable and culturally significant form of knowledge within a community of knowers.
This object links to the idea of community of knowers. I resonate with the knowledge of this moral as it is part of my culture and has helped me in sports. For example: tennis matches against an opponent who is my friend, doesn’t mean I will let them win. The opponent might be my friend outside the court but not in the match as my aim is to achieve success. Another example is the famous speech read at Chicago World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893, made Americans aware of Hinduism and relied on Bhagavad Gita as their central text. The Scripture took place in the religious culture 1960s, encouraging millions of people to form a new consciousness. Hence this moral became a general life lesson for everyone with different cultures. The ability to achieve the teachings gives us our own personality making us a better person.
Object 2: Madras Turmeric
A thousand-year-old saffron-coloured spice in India part of its culture of medicinal herbs. The knowledge of its antioxidants believed to prevent heart diseases, eye conditions and reduce cancer.
The knowledge of this object and its relationship to culture is linked via an Indigenous group called Khasi-tribes (Meghalaya) known since 18th Century. Meghalaya introduced turmeric that is used to this day as part of home remedies. Knowledge of turmeric’s positive effect being conveyed through language helped to spread cultural heritage for generations. Hence, their knowledge and belief in turmeric moved through culture and expanded around the world. Indian culture resonates with the object since turmeric is always used as home remedy ingredient or spice.
The object contributes to belief of traditions in cultures. Belief is another form of knowledge and is acquired through faith and trust in someone or something. The Hindu Culture sees turmeric as a sacred, auspicious and symbol of purity, fertility and prosperity. This culture can influence knowledge in the community around you and be passed onto many generations to learn and share. This object links to my culture of turmeric being used to bring women Luck and also its significance of indicating marital status and ability to run a household. One tradition is to spread turmeric paste on skin as blessings, drive away evil spirits and make skin glow. Culture is known as the ‘way of life’ for groups of people. Hence the object is the symbol of cultural faith.
Object 3: Maasai Tribe Necklace
Maasai tribe is an ethnic group, and their necklace beadwork is beautiful however, we as outsiders wouldn’t realize its true significance and importance. The object plays an imperative role to create and preserve identities of the tribe. Knowledge is acquired about an individual based of their jewellery as it serves a cultural purpose.
The object’s cultural significance links to knowledge that only the Maasai understand. Each colour of the beads in the object represents a meaning providing knowledge of their culture for who sustains and provides nourishment for the Maasai. For example, the colour red symbolizes unity, bravery, strength and blood of cattle which are slaughtered during celebrations. Each meaning is associated with cattle as it’s Maasai’s main food source. And it’s worn to indicate age, social status and mark important events. Communities of knowers, closely linked to their cultures, perceive the knowledge about the Maasai in a clearer way than outsiders would. In conclusion, cultural object conveys certain knowledge, where helping the insiders to receive knowledge and information. To my past experiences in Tanzania, I never realized the true significance of the object. It seemed like Maasai preferred to keep their traditions and cultures to themselves and future generations.
The object itself is an intangible traditional craft in cultural heritage. The object enriches this exhibition with the process of handcrafted necklaces to earn income and provide survival for their family. Cultural heritage for producing traditional crafts is intangible. Women are in charge of making jewellery as a social duty although both genders wear them. The knowledge is acquired through facts, skills or observations. Hence learning how to make the object is imperative for their culture to expand. Beads are usually made from local natural products, but its alternative of glass and ceramic beads have replaced it. This change might have made it easier for Maasai women to produce their necklaces. However, the knowledge of creating the object from raw materials like their ancestors will be lost. Although they still can improve livelihood and protect the environment by selling jewellery which is shaped through culture and heritage helping to define one’s identity.
“Bhagavad Gita.” 2018. Encyclopedia.com 2019. https://www.encyclopedia.com/philosophy- and-religion/eastern-religions/hinduism/bhagavad-gita
“Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 11, Verse 34.” Bhagavad Gita 2014. https://www.holy-bhagavad- gita.org/chapter/11/verse/34
“Maasai Beaded Necklaces” Global Village Museum of Arts and Cultures. 2021. http://globalvillagemuseum.org/current-exhibits/village-arts-gallery/beaded-necklaces/
Schmidt, Darlene. “Everything You Need to Know About Turmeric.” 2019. The Spruce Eats.2021. https://www.thespruceeats.com/about-us-4776236
Avey, Tori. “What is the History of Turmeric?” March 9, 2015. The History Kitchen. 2021. https://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/
“The story of Maasai Women & Their Jewellry.” June 2019. Dar Leone. 2021. https://www.dar-leone.com/blogs/news/the-story-of-maasai-women-their-jewellery
Macharia, Gladys. “Maasai Beadwork: Tradition and Beauty.” UBUNTU Life. 2021. https://www.ubuntu.life/blogs/news/maasai-beadwork-beauty-and-tradition
Thirdeyemom. “Learning the art of making Maasai Jewelry in Tanzania.” Thirdeyemom. 2012. https://thirdeyemom.com/2015/10/25/learning-the-art-of-making-maasai-jewelry-in-tanzania/
Bajaj, Ritika. “Use Lord Krishna’s Teachings for Better Decision-Making.” November 26, 2014. Common Sense Living.2021 https://www.commonsenseliving.co.in/common-sense- living-letters/detail.aspx?date=11/26/2014&story=178&title=Use-Lord-Krishnas-Teachings- for-Better-Decision-Making