Value your voice and the voice of others

As artists and craftspeople the power to influence others, to be activists and drive change comes with the territory. With this power, your voice and your actions have value and that enables you to value others too, to learn for yourself and to celebrate new discoveries. With every aspect of our living and working lives it is important to be educated and to listen to others just as it is necessary to question the structures around us that teach us what to learn and what to value.

In 2019 Sandra Alfoldy wrote an acerbic and analytical article for ‘Craft Culture’, an Australian online journal covering craft and design issues, where she expressed her concerns at the “inequalities that resulted from the World Crafts Council’s attempt to provide a universalizing narrative for craft”.

The World Crafts Council (WCC) was the original inspiration of Aileen Osborn Webb, a wealthy philanthropist who was believed to be responsible for the “shift in perception of American craft from rural hobbies to objects forming part of the New York art scene” (Alfoldy 2019). However, at the “In Praise of Hands” biennial conference in 1974 it became clear that the professionalism and innovation of craft was being elevated within an American hierarchy that was rooted in colonial attitudes and illustrated the chasm between the western and non-western view of traditional craft.

Despite the efforts of the WCC, there was apparent growing dissension and unconscious inequities between the American and global craft communities. The article serves as a reminder to Western Culture of our imperialist biases that historically resulted in marginalizing non-western craftspeople through the classification as ‘other’. It further illustrates a systemic bias that has led to the call today for decolonizing museums and cultural institutions across the globe.

As an affiliate to UNESCO, the WCC is creating new spaces, listening to others and displaying positive solidarity by following its mission statement: “To maintain, strengthen and ensure the status of crafts as a vital part of the cultural and economic life. To promote the human values of crafts and sense of fellowship among the craft workers around the world. To encourage, help and advise craft workers and foster wider knowledge and recognition of their work, having due regard to the separate cultural and national backgrounds and traditions of its members”. This is our opportunity to show up for other people, educate ourselves, observe our privilege, to divest power from those not working for the greater good and most importantly to listen to others.

 


References
Elisa Schoenberger, Museumnext Feb 11 2020 What does it mean to decolonize a museum?
Sandra Alfoldy, Craft Victoria.au., 2019
Sandra Alfoldy, Global Peace Through Craft: The Formation of the World Crafts Council
Sandra Alfoldy, Global Peace Through Craft: The Formation of the World Crafts Council