TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster

Evelyne Alcide, Port Au Prince, Haiti, Seisme (Earthquake), 2010

(Santa Fe, NM - March 15, 2011)—The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster explores how folk artists helped their communities recover from four recent natural disasters: the Haitian Earthquake; Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast; Pakistani floods; and the recent volcanic eruption of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia.

Opening July 3, 2011 in the Museum of International Folk Art’s ‘Gallery of Conscience,’ The Arts of Survival will be the gallery’s second annual exhibition. Last year’s inaugural exhibition Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Communities showed the successful efforts of women folk artists to raise their communities from the ravages of war and worse to build clinics, provide education, and the basic necessities of life. The Arts of Survival runs through May 6, 2012.
The Arts of Survival opens International Folk Arts Week and culminates with the 8th Annual International Folk Arts Market running July 8 - 10, 2011. Highlights of the week will be artist demonstrations, artist talks, lectures, and more.


This timely exhibit comes from one of the places I long to visit, The Museum of International Folk Art.  Maybe this will be the year!  You can find more information on this page.

The Arts of Survival....  Such an appropriate title to describe our times.  It seems like the world is exploding all around us.  The exhibit zooms in on Haiti, which is still suffering so much from its earthquake last year, and now we have Japan.  There are no words to express the horrible tragedy that continues to unfold there.  It is absolutely awful.  A friend of mine is convinced that this is the beginning of the end, referring to the predictions of the Mayan calendar of 2012: total destruction of the world.

I do not feel so pessimistic.  Yes, there is a lot of chaos in our world right now.  There is nothing we can do about natural disasters except to help the survivors, pick up the pieces and try to be smarter about where we build, what we build (nuclear reactors on earthquake prone land?), and how we impact this earth with our consumerism.  Then there is all the chaos caused by human friction: protests and confrontation all over the Middle East (and Wisconsin !!!!), human slave trade, the continued subjugation of women and children, poverty and starvation caused by greed and mismanagement of resources.  It goes on and on and on...  Survival can definitely become an art!

How do we handle all of this?  One can be tempted to just shut the news off and go about life in a little bubble, a cocoon of personal happiness. 

I think that the way to respond and to feel like there is hope is to pick a couple of issues where you can feel like your time, money and energy will make a difference.  Perhaps one that is local to where you live and one that has an international focus.  Giving leads to receiving and as we engage with the other, we find ourselves and realize that we are all connected.

Artists have recorded history through the ages: the good the bad and the ugly.  We have had war and natural disasters all along our human story.  Recording these through the survivor's narrative has such an important role in our future as one thing also remains constant: we forget.  We don't learn from our past mistakes.  We keep seeing the same dynamics played over and over again in history: power, greed, oppression.  And, out of the ashes, come those voices of hope.  I know I will want to see this exhibit and if you can make it, I'm sure that you will, too.


  1. Your post makes me think deeply and I thank you.

  2. Oh, good! Thanks, Dolly. I'm sure most of us are just spinning with all that is going on... My heart is heavy with all of the suffering that is happening in Japan and around the world, but I also have hope that we may learn and care and make our contributions, in whatever way that we can.

  3. The devestation in Japan is mind-oggling, isn't it. And I will actually be in Santa Fe this summer so thanks for the link to the museum!

  4. Lucky you! That museum is my Mecca!

  5. Love the Haitian art piece that you posted... it says so much. Its image shouts out such feeling.

    Thank you for your thoughtful words.

  6. Rabbi Mark Gellman, in this week's God Squad column responded to a reader's worries about predictions that current events are about the end of the world.

    "There is a great Jewish legend about this [the fact that the world will end soon or not.] The rabbis of old taught that if you are planting a tree and you hear that the Messiah is coming, first plant the tree and then go out to greet the Messiah."


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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