A National Living Treasure – Sold

In the Philippines there is an award given to people considered to be National Living Treasures. These artists are recognised for their contribution to the country’s intangible cultural heritage. According to UNESCO, cultural heritage includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants. This includes oral traditions, knowledge and practices related to nature and the universe, as well as knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

There are many women in Zululand who should be acknowledged as national living treasures. Their knowledge of the weaving process, which includes harvesting of both weaving materials and plants used to dye the natural fibre, as well as the intricately mathematical equations that go into producing perfectly geometric shapes on a spherical vessel, is priceless.

Sadly, many young women do not want to learn to weave like their mothers. It is tiring work, and often comes with little financial reward. They long for better jobs in the city, that pay a decent wage. Some have degrees paid for by their crafting mothers, others have only their dreams for a better life. Less and less women take up weaving, even as a hobby, and the cultural knowledge possessed by the older women have fewer hands to teach.

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