But i am an artist too - maybe not the same kind of artist as my sister. I cannot paint even one six hundredth as well as she can - but i create out of what is around me. We are all artists because we all create - whether it's a farm, a spreadsheet, or an essay. This is how, i believe, we know we are created in the image of God. Not necessarily in the physical sense, but because He created - and still creates; and from this, we create. Still, creation requires care. As we create, we care for those things we create because creation takes time, and particularity. For me, social justice and community development is one of the most important forms of caring for creation - being an artist in my own sense. Simply knowing the facts and having knowledge won't guarantee a beautiful life. It is not just simply thinking about and analyzing the world, but living in it, touching it, seeing it - being an artist. I feel like we are reduced as people because we don't know the rest of the world - not understanding God's creation in it's fullest form. We end up objectifying other cultures, making them something that fits into our small box-of-a worldview. I am not abroad 'to help' or 'to do good', as if i have the means and the superiority over others to help them, as if they are helpless. I am simply here to learn and to be. Understanding cannot be done when you have a schedule and a task. I am not a 'good person' for coming here. I am just an observer, a learner, a minority, and a respecter.
The other day we were able to witness an elder lady in the Lahu community we live in who weaves the old fashion way. Her name is Namipan. She is like the mother of this community. She cooks for everyone, she weaves to make a living, and she takes care of the children while their parents are in class. She is the glue to this small community of the Lahu hill tribe. As apart of our class, we watched her create a masterpiece out of the resources around her. She is a true artist. She started with four short sticks she pounded with a rock into the ground. She then took yarn and weaved it, in a very complex pattern between the sticks. This process only sets up the mechanism for the actual weaving. Because she weaves by hand, without a loom, she becomes the loom. She then takes the sticks/yarn mechanism and attaches it to a window. She rolls out the yarn and sits on the ground, literally strapped into the weaver. Finally, she begins the actual weaving process, using wooden sticks to make the patterns - in this case a poinsettia-looking flower. She told us weaving one piece of fabric can take all day, sometimes two.
It is amazing to me that many people who don't see this process of hand weaving, don't understand the skills, the time and the patience it really takes. The creation, the actual incarnation, of the product is just as important as the final product itself. I would probably pay twice as much for Namipan's weavings than i normally would for something at the local market simply because i witnessed the time, effort and skill that went into her work. It is amazing, in our materialistic and consumeristic world, how much we don't think about where our products are coming from, who is making them and the quality of work put in. The price Namipan sells her products for definitely doesn't do her beautiful work justice. Maybe we should be more conscious of the things we consume every day, and maybe this will allow us to be artists in our own forms, for the things we care about the most.
We will be putting Namipan's hand-woven products on Etsy.com soon! They are beautiful, look out!