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Over the years, Stephen Browne has amassed an impressive collection of folk art. Set against the background of the economics vs aesthetics debate, he talks about some of his favourite pieces and discusses what these say about the cultures they come from…
We constantly hear that everything has its price and, today, wildlife conservation is not exempt from this idea.
In the past, say 100 years ago (just after Fauna & Flora International was founded), the standard way to conserve animals was to declare an area a wildlife reserve, put up a fence, remove the problems (usually people) and allow the wildlife to get on with it. Whilst this concept did appear to work for the wildlife, the people who had ancestral links to the land didn’t usually benefit.
Despite this, I do still like the idea that wildlife can be preserved just because it should be.
But even back then, things weren’t as straightforward as they might have appeared. I am pretty sure that there was a vested interest in saving areas that were rich in wildlife because people also liked shooting wildlife (and the money that could be made from this).
The concept of sustainable wildlife harvesting (aka hunting) is something that I do personally agree with, as long as it’s done properly and the revenues go towards conservation (more on that some other time).
But although I am a great believer in assigning economic value to ecosystem services, I do feel that we should also conserve and protect wildlife for its intrinsic aesthetic or cultural values, not just its monetary worth.
The appreciation of wildlife’s beauty is no better demonstrated than through art, especially in what today is called folk or tribal (or, more academically, ethnographic) art.
One of the perks of travelling so much around Asia is that one is frequently exposed to this art, and occasionally has the opportunity to buy it. As an avid collector I have amassed a range of things, which are all photographed and catalogued so as not to break the link with the cultures they come from and which will be given to a museum (should they want them) on my demise.
Here I share and describe a few of the things in my collection…
Learn more about local perceptions of tigers in Sumatra through Jeremy Holden’s blog, Following in the footsteps of tigers.
To find out more about crocodiles and cultural values, take a look at Dr Mark Infield’s blog, The crocodile connection.
Find out why the latest trend in traditional medicine is threatening the helmeted hornbill in Godwin Limberg’s blog, A bitter pill to swallow.
Find out how a chance encounter with a peacock reminded Jeremy Holden of mankind’s more spiritual need to protect the natural world in Eyes of wonder.