Monday, 25 November 2013

Culture, what culture?

The week past included an interesting radio show where Jason Mohammad asked the question "what is culture in Wales"

I think the question could have been set slightly different by asking the question :
What is culture ?
Wiki gives a good toe in the water idea with :
Culture is a modern concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator Cicero:
"cultura animi", cultivation of the soul.
My first reaction to the question was a text to the radio show, the last to be read, it said:
Culture is today, every part of our daily life it is the rise and fall of songs, literature and language, yesterday is history.
I seem to be at odds with current thoughts ....

Cicero, I believe, would have agreed with Hoebel who described culture as having two distinct parts, the physical artefacts, material culture, and everything else, those intangibles such as language and customs.  My guess is that Jason Mohammad, and all those that spoke on the show, consider culture to be restricted to those intangibles, and in Wales it seems that the minority language, that is under threat from extinction, is considered of greater importance than all else on the cultural agenda.

Architecture, including design, choice of material and spacial impact would be considered material culture, separated from the other side of the cultural coin, the intangibles.

This simple example demonstrates the weakness of the traditional description of culture, how do we separate the material from the intangible when language develops as a response to our material world, if the intangible is inextricably linked to our material world, then our current use of culture as a reference to support political ideas is fundamentally flawed because it is partial, it is incomplete.

Going back to Cicero, are we cultivating our soul by failing to embrace the material culture that is today's culture, do we need to consign much of culture to history and embrace today and tomorrow as our true culture.

In Wales "The Mabinogion" would become a curiosity of cultural literature, does "Dylan Thomas" affect our perception of culture in the 21st century, and finally as a point for further consideration, the 2013 "Cardiff International Poetry Competition", link here .....
First Prize, Geoff Lajbrok from Cambridge
for his poem The Goose in the Suitcase

Second Prize, Rosemary Shepperd  from London
for her poem My Milkman comes from Sarajevo and has beautiful hands

Third Prize, Valerie Laws  from Northumbria
for her poem Hitting the Road with Frida Kahlo

Five equal runners-up
Penny Ayers  from Cheltenham
- Charity Novick from Cambridge
Pascale Petit  from London
- Judith Taylor from Aberdeen
- Anna Wigley from Cardiff
Is our culture "of Wales" or might it be "of everywhere" .......

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