Monday 17th Aug 2015
Journalist Jackie McGlone introduced Henrietta Lidchi to her audience on a roasting Indian summer day at Charlotte Square’s Garden Theatre. Discussing the politics of adornment within the last 150 years is no mean feat when an hour is all there is to share vast amounts of knowledge and not overwhelm the audience with all the facts. Book title ‘Surviving Desires’ Lidchi explains was a ‘“ riff on ‘Surviving Desire’ the film” by Hal Hartley of recent Ned Rifle fame.The main thrust of the book explains what Lidchi’s focused anthropological practice is, essentially silver and its by product turquoise. Due to a delayed gallery project, 1997 was the year she was asked to do some fieldwork. Having the entire world to choose from, she thought she would find out more about the Southwest American indigenous peoples and boy has she done that! This book guides you through contemporary makers such as Navajo couple Tsosie and Mary Taylor to the lapidary inlays of the Reano’s from Santo Domingo Pueblo who feature melon shell in their pendants.
A regular trans-atlantic traveller, Lidchi has built up a reputation as someone worth befriending in the ‘Four Corners’ states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Knowing how to connect at parties, Lidchi regularly fires up a conversation with ‘That’s an amazing piece of jewellery.’ It is entirely fortunate that The British Museum entrusted Lidchi to buy for their collection because much of the jewellery purchased on these trips have since become incredibly expensive and probably not a viable option now. Dr.Lidchi has discovered much about ‘the specific meanings in context of visual material’ and is keen to share her findings. In August 1998 Lidchi was approached by Emerson from Twin Lakes near Gallup, a jeweller who has different ambitions for his children. She purchased his work for the British Museum collection. Through Emerson she found ‘Thunderbird’, the local jeweller’s supply store.
Cradle boards, katchina dolls, block turquoise, coral and the complex social and political history of the Hopi and Navajo pueblo jewellery with all its cultural and material history is only some of the topics under discussion here. Not to mention how the pawn industry conducts itself very differently to how it does in Britain. This glossy wonder is invaluable reading matter and a fertile place to learn more about this subject.
Reviewer : Clare Crines