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Tradition in Transition: Modernity and the Ju/’hoansi Ostrich Eggshell Craft

Updated: Mar 12

With Jennifer Jacobs 2015

This research delves into the transformation of the Ju/’hoansi ostrich eggshell craft, a testament to the community's adaptability in the face of technological advancements and modern economic pressures.

We investigate how digital fabrication tools are being integrated into traditional crafting methods, alongside an analysis of the craft's evolution within the context of modern craft theories and economic changes. This studies showcases the Ju/’hoansi's ability to navigate the complexities of maintaining cultural heritage while embracing the opportunities provided by digital technologies.

Our findings reveal a nuanced interplay between tradition and innovation, where the introduction of digital tools enhances rather than replaces traditional practices. This process not only preserves the craft's social and cultural significance but also opens new avenues for economic sustainability and creative expression. By critically examining the impact of modernity on the ostrich eggshell craft, the research challenges prevailing assumptions within western craft discourse, proposing a more inclusive understanding of craftsmanship that values adaptation and resilience.

The project contributes to a broader dialogue on the future of traditional crafts, highlighting the importance of fostering environments where ancient practices can coexist with and benefit from technological advancements. It underscores the potential for traditional crafts to remain relevant and vibrant in a digital age, advocating for a balanced approach that respects the past while innovating for the future.

Research papers

Jacobs, J., & Zoran, A. (2015). Hybrid Practice in the Kalahari: Design Collaboration Through Digital Tools and Hunter Gatherer Craft. In Proceedings of the 33rd International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '15). ACM, New York, NY, USA.

Zoran, A. (2018). The ostrich eggshell beads craft of the Ju/’hoansi: A reflection on modern craft theories. Craft Research, 9(2), 229-253.


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