(UPDATED 11/16/18) This past weekend the Shepard Garden and Arts Center hosted the Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art exhibit and sale. Above the Fray is an enterprise formed in 2007 by Maren Beck and Josh Hirschstein to showcase the weaving and cultures of hill tribes in Laos and Vietnam.
See related post: Shepard Garden and Arts Center
I had in past years noted the ads for the “Fine Silks and Tribal Art” exhibit and sale held at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center, but this was the first time I attended. It turned out to be the 4th Annual exhibit and sale in Sacramento.
The exhibit and sale included a diverse array of beautiful hand-woven traditional textiles and tribal art, including silks and embroidered hemp and cotton textiles.
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The silk textiles are from the Houaphon Province in northeast Laos where the Tai Daeng and Lao Loum adhere to an ancient tradition of silk creation. The silk is locally raised, and the dyes are all-natural, created from the bark, wood, roots, leaves and bugs of the jungle.
The weaving is done on hand-made floor looms, an example of which was featured at the event. As I viewed the colorful and intricate works of art, I knew that the time commitment of the artist had to be significant. When I checked the Above the Fray website afterwards I learned that the weaving process alone may take an artist four months!
Also offered for sale were baskets, jewelry, ritual art, tools and toys made and used by hill tribe peoples. The Akha-Puli of northwest Laos are, for example, renowned silver-smiths.
I find the backstory behind Above the Fray very interesting. Traveling in the remote hill regions of northern Laos and Vietnam, Maren and Josh discovered that there are dozens of unique tribal cultures, each with their own beliefs, traditions, languages, and forms of artistic expression. A passion to share these beautiful art forms followed.
The couple has over the years developed a relationship with many of the artists showcased. The event offered an opportunity for me to learn about the various hill tribes and to see, in some instances, the picture of the individual who had produced the article for sale.
According to the Above the Fray website there are artists who deny the request for a photo either out of shyness or a belief that the photo may capture a portion of their spirit, leaving them vulnerable.
Today, however, times are changing – and many of these cultural groups are in danger of losing ethnic identity. By providing a source of income for those who practice these traditional crafts it seems to me that Above the Fray incentivizes the artisans to continue creating, and passing on to the younger generation, these diverse traditional forms of hill tribe art.
I don’t know Maren and Josh, but I find their endeavor very worthwhile and impressive. They have combined a love of travel and discovery with a mission to help preserve a way of life in danger of disappearing.
Above the Fray donates 15% of profits to Mines Advisory Group (MAG). In Laos and Vietnam MAG, a Nobel-prize winning organization, clears unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War, an ongoing problem that results each year in death and hinders local economic development.
Comments on Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art?
Did you attend this year, or have your attended in the past, the Above the Fray exhibit and sale? Do you have any comments to add?
(UPDATED 11/16/2018) 2018 Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art Show & Sale Snapshot:
- November 16, 17, 18
- Shepard Garden & Art Center, 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95816
- Hours: Friday & Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Free Admission
- Parking Lot & Street Parking
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