Here we have another example
of how Nepalese people of the hinterland take an essential and
ubiquitous item and turn it into a distinct and varied domestic
art form. This is a scythe - the tool used for hand harvesting
grain or other grasses. The main thing of interest here though
is the carved holder. This one is very old and has a deep rich
patina, which bears witness to years of use. A really nice
example of this genre of domestic art.
What makes these kinds of objects most interesting to many
collectors is what they say about the "culture of work". In
industrialized high tech societies, we tend to clearly define boundaries between work and the
more esoteric aspects of life such as spirituality and for the
most part - aesthetic or artistic concerns. In traditional
non-industrial societies we often see something else entirely.
As here with this grass cutter's ornate sheath, or with the
carved neti (butter churn handles), or with old ornately carved
Himalayan drop spindles and spinning wheels - spiritual and
aesthetic concerns are not divorced from mundane tasks and the
tools that accomplish such work. How many of you have crafted a
finely embellished sheath to store your weed whacker? How about
doing a little bead or embroidery work on your attaché or brief
case? Not even a little decorative etching or inlay work on the
key board of your computer?
No... usually in the modern west, these items are purely utilitarian.
There is no investment of sacredness, esoteric value and
certainly no attribution of any sentient quality, as we find in
animist societies. The only exception tends to be that fraction
of the Western population who give a personal name to their car,
and indeed it is really only with automobiles that we see much
in the way of ritualistic embellishment - maybe something
hanging from the rear view mirror, or an icon or talisman
sitting on the dash board. In more extraordinary examples we
might see custom paint jobs, fancy wheels, and other
modifications. Beyond the occasional vehicular anomaly though...
western man does not invest his "tools" with animistic
properties nor his labour with a spiritual quality that would
justify any sort of artistic investment in his work objects.
This says a great deal about our respective cultures and world
view, and I'm afraid that what it says about Western life may
not be all together flattering - though this is merely my
opinion and one that may not be shared by too many people who
don't have a significant interest in ethnographic matters.
hills agricultural tool
early 20th C.
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