Last Words

February 29, 2008

As a conclusion, we figured we should write something about what we feel we’ve learnt during this project.

When noticing the differences between the two cultures, the religious purposes in the Indian art are easily seen, but among the Native Americans, art is usually practised for functional purposes only, or decoration for such objects as canoes, dresses, containers etc. Another difference is obviously the religions; the Indians are Hindus while the Native Americans are Pagans / Christians. Music is an essential difference too, because most of the American Indians’ songs have spiritual purposes such as healing, while in India it is mainly practised to satisfy own feelings or tell stories and other less religious or spiritual ways.

As a contrast, what makes them alike are how they practice ceremonies and rituals and how they let religion influence their lives hugely. Families and nature are main focuses to both cultures, and they have very close relations to their fellow creatures on earth. As an example is their huge respect for the elders and especially the animals surrounding them.

Fact File: Aztek

February 29, 2008

Human sacrifice as shown in the Codex Magliabechiano.What? The Aztek was one of the greatest tribes of Central-America. Moteuczoma, was the main chief of all azteks who ruled one of the richest countries in whole America. When the spanish adventurer Hernán Cortès led a group of soldiers from Europe in 1519, they met the city og azteks. It led to one of the most dramatic historical events in time.  

Who? The azteks were civilizated people, not very different from the Mayas. The azteks warriors wore clothes of cotton and feathers. They vere extremly religious, and believed in the so-called Moteuczoma, which was an philosophy where the Azteks gave human blood and human hearts as a sacrifice to their gods, so the world would not surrender. There were somewhere around 1 600 gods. One for each aspect of life. The ceremonies contained dancing, theater in exeptional detailed costumes and kanibalism.  

Where? As shown in the picture, the Azteks lived in central mexico. The Azteks settled down in a fertile area somewhere around 1325. They were contantly practising war, and formed allies with other tribes.

 If you want more information, the moviemakers Dreamworks has made a movie based on Cortés meeting with the Azteks. The Movie is called Eldorado, for those who wants to know more!

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Culture Of India

February 29, 2008

Indian culture as we know it today has its origin from one of the oldest cultures in the world. The Indus valley civilization. They were an ancient civilization who dates back to almost 3000 years BC. Archaeologists has found traces of dance sculptures, pottery, golden jewellery, trading networks, brick houses, make up, hair colour, string-instruments, toys and games, sea-going crafts, yoga postures and ornaments like swastikas, which indicates that we can trace modern Indian culture back to the Indus valley.

But none of these things can say anything about how the Indians developed their cultural traditions, customs and manners. Manners are a quality Indian culture highly treasures. They treat each other nicely and with respect. Because in Indian values and beliefs, all people are alike and everyone should be treated with the same respect. According to Indians themselves, they even treat their guests like a member of their own family. It seems like India is a “family nation”. They respect and love their family as a big part of their culture. Elders are the most respected ones in an Indian family, and to get their blessing, they touch their feet according to tradition. When India was invaded by Brittan in the mid 18th century, the Indians picked up English customs and language. Nowadays, the two main languages in India are actually English and Hindi. But India is a country of many languages, if we’d include all of them, India would have 415 living languages. Many of these are spoken in small religious societies spread all over the country. 

Hinduism is the main religion in India, with almost 80% of the inhabitants as followers. Hinduism is also the oldest and one of the world’s largest religions. Many things indicate that Indians got their manners and customs from Hinduism. After all, a Hindu’s life is mostly about how to live a good life and achieve good karma. (Then you can get in a better caste and finally reach moksha, which is a condition of nor life or death.) An important part of Hinduism is meditation, or yoga as it’s also called. Yoga is an ancient spiritual ritual which is originating in India. As said before, traces of yoga postures were found in the Indus valley. That way we know it’s a very old tradition in India. Yoga is a ritual where you sit in different positions or postures,It is supposed to help you relax and keep an open mind. The Gods is often pictured sitting in yoga postures. Hinduism as many other religions has its ceremonies. These ceremonies take place in beautiful temples, filled with wonderfully handmade god-sculptures and pictorial-art. It’s one of India’s main tourist attractions because of its rare character and greatness.India is sometimes referred to as the land of temples because of all these Hindu-temples. They are outstanding and truly a distinctive feature for Indian architecture and culture. When talking about Indian architecture, perhaps the most famous creation is the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is a huge mausoleum, also known as a monument build over a person’s burial chamber. It’s made of white marble and has elements of Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Indian style. The Taj Mahal is visited by millions of tourist every year and is considered one of the creations on UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Times New Their religion is an important component in their culture. First of all, it says a lot about how they live their lives and what values they have. Second of all, it brought on the temples, which is considered as rare beautiful characteristic architecture, and an important part of Indian culture. And third of all, it’s a huge impact on art, litterateur, poetry and music. Indian art is mainly influenced by religion. Their art express religious or spiritual truths of timeless character. It’s not important what and when the motive is from, what really matters is the spiritual presence of the gods. Almost all Hindus have their own statues and pictorial art in their homes. That way they can have their own little alter where they pray and worship their gods every day. Indian literature, poetry and music consist mostly of Hindu-text and stories about gods. Modern Indian music is a slight different thing. The largest modern culture society in India today must be the famous Bollywood. It’s India’s answer to the American Hollywood. Bollywood music can be about love and feelings, and not just stories of gods. The music, dances and movies are outstanding. They always wear bright colourful outfits with extravagant jewelleries. In regular days, the Indians have traditional clothes for both women and men. Women wear something called salwar kameez or sari, while men wear a dhoti, lungi or kurta.

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If I should mention one last thing about Indian culture, it’s got to be the food. Indian food is special in every region of the country. In the North they eat chicken, milk, cheese and other regular ingredients. While in the south, very spicy food and vegetarian dishes with rice and other vegetables is more common. Of course all over India, rice and wheat are the staple food. Every region or family has its traditional way of preparing and cooking the food. India, which is a social country, with many festivals and gatherings, food plays a very important part because it brings people together. At festivals as well as in everyday life when families sit down and eat together.

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Indian art has been influenced by all traditions for a long time, and it still shows elements of the village life and religious traditions. A lot of the inherited and patriarchal traits have a conservative influence in the art environment. Indian art gives you expression of vigorous, strong and outgoing creating fantasy; the motives in Indian art are picked up by the refined traditions and myths. Indian art is mainly made for religious purposes and contains holy ceremonial elements. It is meant to support meditation. India’s artistic expressions are made for religious laws, but the artist still has the freedom to develop a message of their own imagination. Indian art mostly contains a mixture of human and animal figures, for example an elephant’s head placed on top of a human’s body. These kinds of art reflect some of the gods that they believe in.

Indian pictorial art:

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The name of this pictorial art is Suboth Gupta and brings a long the Indians traditions of worshiping holy cows in to the contemporary art arena.

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Backside: is filled with pieces of cliche, the motive of the love god  is painted on the windows shutters and when you open them up you see a painting that shows young girls how have committed suicide because of the missing dowry.

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This pictorial art’s name is” Seven faces of the dust” with uterus-like shapes made with gravel and sand.

     Native American pictorial art:Native American art expresses the free spirit, dynamism and the evolution of the cultural, spiritual and the religious beliefs of the Native Indian people.American Indian art comes in form like pottery, jewellery, basketry, weavings, paintings, beadwork, silverwork, sculptures and woodcarvings. Native Americans are a highly spiritual people who create objects of extraordinary beauty, and they also thought that there is no distinction between what is beautiful or functional.Design goes far beyond concerns of function, and beauty is much more than simple appearances. For many native peoples, beauty arises from living in harmony with the order of the universe. The concerns and aspirations of a vital contemporary American Indian population changes as the world changes. Today some Native American artists continue traditions of their ancestors, while others transform those traditions in new and innovative ways. 

 

Native American pictorial art:

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Comparison between Indian and Native American pictorial art:Both Indian and Native American are very spiritual and religious people, and it shows through the art that they make. This is what they both have in comment:

  • They both make art that represent their religion and believes
  • Their art contains pictures of human and animal figures
  • Their art has started to become more liberal as the time passes by and allows the artist to develop a message of their own imagination.

  These are the difference between them:

  • Even though they both use human and animal figures in their art they use it in very different ways. Native American uses the figures in realistic ways they separate the human from the animal, while Indian’s makes a mixture of human and animal figure.
  • They make different kinds of art Indian art mostly contains wall paintings, Buddha statues and  pictorial art, while Native American’s make pottery, jewellery, basketry, weavings, paintings, beadwork, silverwork, sculptures and woodcarvings.

    

Fact file: The Mayas

February 29, 2008

– A Native American tribe

maya-19small.jpgWhat? When it comes to native cultures in the Central-America, the Mayas have always been one of the big central tribes. Most people associate the word “Maya” with the native pyramids. Well, for those who want to experience a bit of one of the world’s rarest and most famous cultures, read further, because there is a lot more to know.

Who? The Mayas is also referred as a population of native americans who built the famous Maya temples and worshipping gods by preforming execution with human and animal sacrifices. The old maya civilization does no longer exist, mostly because of the european invasion in the 16th century.

Where? The civilized mayas lived in Central-America, in the borders of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Today’s mayas live in the modern part of Guatemala and parts of Mexico.

Why? The Mayan art had its influences from politics, the ancient calendar and of course, religion. With help from old sculptures, jewelry, pottery and wall painting, the archaeologists has been enabled to understand the way the old natives once lived. The Mayas are not very differently from the Northern Native Americans. By studying their art, it was easier to learn about their nature, identities and rituals. It is the same when it comes to the Asian Indians. Each culture has its own art and cultural expressions. They are famous for their unusual architecture and the old pyramids have become an important source for tourism.

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If you want to learn about the Northern Indian culture, it is important for you to know about their previous history. Their past shapes their present ways of living, which also includes their culture. Which means the main questions is; how do they live today compare to how they lived before? What has European invasion done to the Native Indian population and culture?

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North America, Northwest Coast, Makah Basket, 20th century.

As many other native cultures worldwide, the Native Indian tribes have been reduced, some of them destroyed by European settlers. The Indian tribes are, and have always been, as diverse as the vast land in which they live. Even from the very start they have been in interaction with nature, and spiritual devices. The tribes today have experienced a growing extinction and have fewer than 50 members per each tribe, which before flourished during the twentieth century to more than 50.000 members.

 

The Native American art was simple. Typical examples of art are pottery, wall-paintings, jewellery, clothing, religious masks and other functional things. They had a tight relationship with nature, on a both functional and spiritual level. The early Native American art that was made, was not made for its own sake, unlike Europeans. The form and decoration of handmade objects evolved out of daily needs and spiritual beliefs over thousands of years. Art, beauty, and spirituality are so intertwined in the daily life of traditional Native Americans that it is nearly impossible to speak of them separately. They used natural materials as stone, feathers, roots, grass, fur and such. They expressed their Native Americans’ way of living was shaped by their spiritual beliefs. Most Native people believed that they were connected to every other element of creation. Each animal, tree, or rock had its own spirit through which an individual could establish contact with the spirit world. The survival and well-being of Native people was dependent on maintaining harmony with the earth. Many contemporary Native people continue to hold these traditional beliefs. As well as art, the Indians wrote poetry. This is an example of a Night Chant, written by a Navajo-tribe. It clearly shows a Native’s vision of beauty related to Nature.

Beauty before me, I walk with.
Beauty behind me, I walk with.
Beauty above me, I walk with.
Beauty below me, I walk with.
Beauty all around me, I walk with.

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When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, he described the natives (who were mistakenly dubbed as “Indians”) as “gentle, sweet, mannerly, and decorous”. However, their generosity tolerance for group ownership of land, other religions and different social customs were seen as a weakness. When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they were welcomed by the native tribes. However, the natives were shocked and confused by their guests’ insatiable lust to own the land, as the concept of owing the land as an individual did not exist to the Indians. The following years were rough. The Indians disgusted the colonist’s use of land, and they started kidnapping settlers. Among those hostages was John Smith. A legend says that Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, successfully pleaded her father to spare Smith’s life. Recognizing? 

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There are several big wars were the Natives fought the settlers and Europeans. Even since the settlers came, the natives has been dominated and depressed. The natives gathered several tribes and attacked the European settlers, claiming their goods and way of life back. The famous Indian wars lasted between 1860 and 1890. The loss of land and people were expressed in the art developed throughout the years. 

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The picture to the left is an example from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina. It shows a weeping wooden sculpture, which is a typical piece of art made by natives. They use clear expressions and large facial qualities. The message is not hard to interpret. The conflict kept going on, so did their art. The art developed throughout the years, and more expressive sculptures was made as more and more natives were killed.

The US government primarily tricked and forced the Indians by convincing tribes to sign over 300 treaties until 1871. By 1887 so many tribes had been given land within Indian Territory that the US government policy was changed. From now on they granted land to individual tribe members rather than the tribe as a group. This led to further separation they became more dissolved from each other. They sent the native children into schools where their motto was “Kill the Indian, save the man.” As an organized effort the Native Americans seeked spiritual help by dancing and performing ceremonies, which resulted with banning. Within 1924 the Indians within the United States were made citizens. Indians fought in both World Wars, and participated in the fight of rights in the 1960’s. Even in the 1970’s there were protests in Washington where they called for a return to original treaty promises and gunfights.

When the natives came in contact with the European and Modern world, they also upgraded their tools and got a lot of influence. Among other things, they started painting more realistic and detailed paintings and started living more like modern citizens. The art from 20th century clearly shows a change from decoration of potteries and walls to portraits of Native Chiefs.  

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Painting made by a Native American from the late 1800s.

 Today, the native people are a part of the Modern America. Still, they have continued to maintain their identities, rituals, traditions and art as tribal people. There are some over 2,4 million Native Americans still living in the US, and about 550 reservations and others live in cities and rural areas. The Native Americans still live in contact with their spiritual mind and nature. Keeping their culture at a native level has made their music and art famous all over the world. Among other things, they are the creators of the dream catcher, the spiritual eagle (and other symbolic animals) and the famous totem poles which are famous elements in modern art and shops. They express themselves in colours, which they use in clothing, body art and paintings. Still in open markets, such as the famous Native American art’s market in Santa Fe, you can buy or purchase bits of their culture.

As a summary, it is clear that their culture has changed and developed through the years. However, they have maintained their old fashion of expressing themselves. Being a Native American means living only on basic needs, loving all living things around you, mother earth and yourself. They focus on the beauty in all living things. Even their famous tents (also named Tepees) are built with a simple structure. As well as before, their art often shows still life and scenes from their daily life. We believe as a culture, the Native Americans have a lot to offer, and even more. We absolutely recommend to someday exploring this culture on your own, or just live in their world for a few minutes by listening to their music, explore their food and such. Their way of living is fascinating and inspiring for other citizens and for those who is great connected to the Modern World.

So, all in all, I hope you have learned a bit of one of the most famous cultures in the world.      

Fact file: Muskogee people

February 29, 2008

– A Native American Tribe

What? Today the tribe is one of the Five Civilized Tribes of America, which means that they have adopted a lot of modern, white people’s customs. The languages they speak are English and Creek. Generally they live in a mixture of modern American and traditional Creek life. It is important to most muskogees to keep the old traditions, stories and beliefs, not to lose their identity as Native Americans.

Who? They mainly call themselves Muskogee (Muscogee) people today (though there are some other bands as well), but the white settlers called them Creek Indians after Ocmulgee Creek in Georgia. Originally they called themselves Isti or Istichata.

Where? The Creek people lived in the Southeast United States before they were moved by the European invaders to Indian territories. Modern muskogees primarily live in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Why? The Creek lived in villages of rectangular pole-framed houses, with clay-covered walls and slanted and peaked bark-covered roofs. The houses were arranged in a rectangle around a central space (plaza), where a ceremonial lodge stood. The plaza was reserved for public events, such as the annual renewal and thanksgiving festival, known as the Green Corn Ceremony. Some villages, known as red towns, were designated for war ceremonies, and others, called white towns, for peace ceremonies. Each village had a micco, or chief, who was advised by the Beloved Men, a council of elders. Priests also played an important part in village life. Families were organized into clans, or groups of families related by a common ancestor. Creek women cultivated corn, squash, beans, and other crops, and the men hunted and fished. Like many other tribes of the Southeast, the Creek were heavily tattooed and ornamented.

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Fact file: Totem poles

February 28, 2008

– Native American Sculptures

What? A totem pole is a sculpture made of great trees. Because it is made of trees, they decay easily in the rainforest environment. These poles are usually carved and painted onto containers, house fronts, canoes, masks, intricately-woven blankets, ceremonial dresses, weapons, armor, and many other tools and implements. The humans and animals made on the poles are called crests, and is a family symbol, for instance to show the family’s pride, history and identity.

Who? Totem poles are traditional art of the Native American tribes along the Pacific Northwest in North America.

Where? Pacific Northwest in North America. 

Why? The purpose of the totem poles has a lot of varieties between the cultures and the tribes. Some are made for the cultural message, while others are made only for the artistic presentation. They can be used to illustrate stories, commemorate historical persons or to represent shamanic or spiritual powers. What’s important to remember is that they were never made as objects of worship.

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Bollywood entertaiment

February 28, 2008

Ohoi, while studying Indian culture I jumped into Bollywood a lot of times, and I couldn’t hold back… Therefore I’m publishing this Bollywood movie which demonstrates the modern Indian music. Bollywood has actually become very popular all over the world today, and it is hilarious to watch, enjoy =)

When looking at the two types of music among the Native Americans and the Indians, the first thing I notice is the way they have been using the music throughout the ages. In the examples I’ve put further down (the post “A taste of their music”) one can explore the differences by listening, while I am going to study in which ways their music has been used in a cultural context.

I’ve had a great interest in the Native Americans for a long time, and music certainly is a very important element in their culture, as it is used for ceremonies, religious rituals, meditation, healing and such. A lot of the tribes also believe the songs were made by the Creator, and have passed through generations for thousands of years. Their music is completely melodic, and vocalization or the use of the voice is the most important instrument. The flute along with the drum and rattle are also very frequently used instruments. The drum is used to keep the rhythm, though it is common to make the rhythm irregular in Native American music. The song texts are usually said to be “ancient and unchanging”, have a spiritual message or meaning, and often it is believed they hold a spell. This is because music is the main way the natives communicate with the supernatural powers. Along with this music, dance and costuming are compulsory components, especially during rituals and ceremonies. 

While music among the Native Americans is mainly used for spiritual or healing purposes, Indian folk music is used for own entertainment during ceremonies such as births, and weddings. It is also common to sing about such things as planting and harvesting, but not for any spiritual purpose as in the America. They are simply singing of their hopes, fears and aspirations.

As mentioned, ceremonial music is important to the Indians. For instance when a girl has her first menstruation it is a tradition that she meets with the elderly women in the community, and the girl has to sing extremely bawdy. Drums, ektars (a one stringed lute), dotars (a two stringed lute), saringdas (a bowed folk fiddle) and santurs (see picture below) are among others highly used instruments in Indian folk music. These instruments are usually crafted by the musicians themselves, for instance with skin, peritoneum, bamboo, coconut shells, and pots. 

In summary I’d say that the main difference between the Native American and the Indian traditional music is that the American music is mainly used for spiritual purposes, while the Indian music has no spiritual basis, though both is commonly used for ceremonies and rituals. The usage of instruments is also very different, whereas in India they often use string instruments and song texts for their own mentality and feelings, but the Native Americans use flutes and rattles, and use old, traditional and holy song texts with a spiritual message of healing or help.

This is an Indian traditional instrument, the santur:
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A pretty flute, which is frequently used in Native American music:
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A taste of their music

February 26, 2008

Without analysing or comparing yet, I just figured I should publish one video showing the traditional Indian folk music, and one video containing traditional Native American music.

I reckon the Indian movie is quite entertaining to watch, though the flute music from America is stunningly beautiful…

This is Indian folk music and dance.

This is the Native American song… It’s supposed to be medicine music. Beautiful.

Introduction

February 26, 2008

We’re looking forward to see what differs the Native American Indians from the Indian Indians. Culture is an important element to the identity of these peoples, and by looking more deeply at the differences we’ll get a better view of how and why the art has developed the way it has. 

The problem we’ve chosen is to compare these two different cultures, and mainly learn about their music, sculptures and pictorial art.

Some people have been wondering why we’ve chosen to compare Native Americans and Indians, because they don’t really have much to do with each other. The answer is simply that we had to choose two English speaking countries (from the English curriculum), and these two cultures seemed very interesting to learn more about, as they’re very different from our western culture.

Some have even asked whether we know the difference between the Indians… Which we do. I hope. Concerning the Native Americans, they are the indigenous people in America, while when we use the term Indians, we mean the people of India.

Further on, we intend to use different means to show our readers why we’ve become so interested in these particular cultures, and when we see the small likenesses it motivates us to keep looking for what brings humans together and makes us one species, out of consideration for which world part we come from or how history has shaped us through the ages.

This is an Indian girl and a Native American Indian.
Can you spot the likeness?

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