Creative Handiwork

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi expresses the wisdom of creating and using handmade articles, rather than indulging in useless consumerism, which is detrimental to society. An intrinsic understanding of these concepts was expressed in the combined functionality and artistry of Native handiwork, for, beginning even at birth, a young infant was exposed to the beautiful artistry and workmanship that produced his cradleboard.

"From birth until the time a child learned to walk, he or she spent most of the time in a cradleboard. The cradleboard was made by attaching a footrest to the bottom of a wooden plank and a strip of bent wood to the top (to protect the baby's head should the cradleboard fall). The cradleboard was cushioned with moss or feathers, and then the baby was strapped on with leather strips or laced into a bed of soft animal skin attached to the cradleboard.

Parents often spent a great deal of time and care in making and decorating cradleboards, which were often beautifully carved and adorned with shells, porcupine quill embroidery, and charms to protect the baby from sickness and evil. Safe in the cradleboard, the baby could sleep, watch what was going on (if the cradleboard was leaned upright or hung from a tree branch), or ride on the mother's back as she walked, the cradleboard hanging behind her from a band attached to her forehead."[1]

The wisdom of using natural materials is also expressed by Shri Mataji:
"Now, I have found out a solution for Sahaja Yogis, what they should do. They should try to encourage handicrafts. Every country I went to, I bought handicrafts, whether it was Czechoslovakia or England or anywhere. I cannot understand - how can you go and buy this rubbish of plastic, of this useless things? So for Sahaja Yogis, they must take a vow that we will only take things which are handmade. You need not have many things, you can have few, but something handmade. "

"...I must tell you one thing, I can't wear nylon, I can't wear anything artificial, really, I can't. For a while, if I even wear socks also, My whole body starts paining. So, it is against (you).. In America also I was surprised that beautiful things are selling in shops which they call as outlets, very good, mostly of silk or of cotton and leather - pure leather. But people will go to big, big markets and buy all nonsense at a very high price and not from there - means they have no wisdom. And this is what happens, that the wisdom, if it is lacking in your sense, then this wisdom corrodes the society. Because wisdom itself shows how dangerous it is to go on buying all these nonsensical things."
(Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi,Evening before Navaratri, Cabella, 1997-10-04)

Whether displayed in toys, clothing, practical carrying utensils, hunting or in ceremonies, Native handicrafts were made from things found within nature. Cornhusks were used to make simple dolls, or more ornate ones that were dressed up in traditional clothes and feathers. Mohawk girls learned the handicraft traditions by helping their mothers sew clothing and make moccasins and jewelry.

Traditional Mohawk artwork was both decorative and useful. Handmade rattles made from horn, elm, bark, turtle shells, and dried-out gourds filled with pebbles, kernels of corn, or other small objects were used for both hunting and in ceremonies. Used musically, rattles were effective items for keeping time with ceremonial chants and songs. Decorated belts even had a distinct communicative function.

"Originally, the Mohawks did not have a written language. Instead, they recorded information using wampum, strings of polished and colored beads made from shells. By arranging the beads into different designs, the Mohawks created pictographs, or picture symbols. To record lots of information, they sewed many strands of beads onto fabric or skin belts, called wampum belts." [2]

"The Mohawks made decorative objects from beads, feathers, and quills. They made beaded shoes, clothing, and other items, with intricate designs that told stories from the past. They sewed long rows of white-and-black porcupine quills onto clothing and headdresses, called kastoweh. They often used [antlers],large eagle, turkey, and pheasant feathers to make colorful headdresses for sachems.[chiefs]" [3]

Craftsmen also made the practical items needed for their daily existence: shelters, weapons, bows, arrows, wooden traps and nets required for hunting and fishing. Often animal symbols representing specific clans - turtle, bear, and wolf - were used to decorate clothing as well as homes.

Native Spiritual tradition was also represented in art form.

"Mohawk carvings made on moose antlers are rare and special. Moose lose antlers each year. Mohawk artists traditionally collected and carved them into animals and figures. The carvings were long and thin, like the antlers themselves, and often represented the spirits of the woodlands where the moose lived. When polished, the antlers were glossy white and looked like ivory." [4]

[1]Sita, Lisa. Indians of the Northeast: Traditions, History, Legends, and Life. Milwaukee, WI 53212 USA. Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2000. p.41, ISBN: 0-8368-2646-9 (lib.bdg) [2-4] Kirk, Connie Ann. The Mohawks of North America/by Connie Ann Kirk. Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA. Lerner Publications Company, 2002. ISBN: 0-8225-4853-4 pp. 27,29,31,32,34,35,36,37

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