Tribal Trappings – Asian Ethnic Art, Artifacts, Textiles and Folk Art Tribal Trappings – Thoughts about Thailand, Chiang Mai, things tribal including textiles, ethnographica and folk art <data:blog.pageTitle/>

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Much ado about very little

Today's news includes mention of a very special dress made for a brief appearance on Charlize Theron in a cinematic remake of Snow White. The article goes on about how it's made of "dung beetle" shells from a flea market in Thailand, and about how difficult they were to work with. What a bunch of dung! For starters, the beetles in Thailand are not dung beetles: they are 'sternocera aequisignata', also known as "jewel beetle". It is a wood-boring beetle found in the mountains near the Thai/Burma border. Among the people inhabiting this area are the Karen/Karean and they often decorate their weavings, especially the 'singing shawls', and baskets with the wing cases of these beetles. On a visit to some Karen villages one September we remember vividly these flying critters coming out at night, having been drawn to our lights. They were about two inches long and made quite a bit of noise as they hit hard surfaces. We have one of the large Karen baskets from Sop Moei (AC210)with some of the wings attached; they are a beautiful iridescent green/blue with gold highlights. I have also used them on a necklace- see JSS468. The article goes on to say how sharp they are ("treacherous") and required gloves for some of the seamstresses to handle them. Puleeeeze! They do have points, but if they were so sharp, why would they be used in jewelry? Evidently there is a long history of these wings being used for jewelry, apparel embellishment and even interior design: the Royal Palace in Belgium has a ceiling and chandelier decorated with them by a modern designer. Methinks the media has done a bit of embellishment themselves.