Weaving Worlds

Feb 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010, Media Reviews

Written and Directed by Bennie Klain VisionMaker Video (2008) 57 Minutes

Review by Deborah Kelley-Galin

WEAVING WORLDSWriter/director Bennie Klain’s film, Weaving Worlds, examines the tenuous relationship between traditional Diné weavers, who struggle to live a life of integrity, and the capitalist market, on which their livelihoods depend.

Nicole Horseherder is a young weaver who obtained a Master’s Degree in Linguistics and returned home to follow the traditional ways. Through her eyes, we see the injustice in a system that commands higher and higher resale prices for traders while leaving the artists themselves with barely enough funds to keep their sheep.

But money, Klain shows us, is not the only problem. Weaving Worlds reveals a system, run by non-Indians, that clearly undervalues the cultural significance of the works. This system includes the shopper, who is looking for something that has not “just been thrown together,” and the gallery buyer, who questions whether her customers will know that the rugs are really “special.” This system ultimately opens the door to the exploitation of Native designs and the manufacture of cheap knock-offs.

The film is framed by clips from the Crownpoint Rug Auction, a venue that bypasses middlemen and gives customers the opportunity to meet weavers and their families. Now held monthly in the Crownpoint, NM, Elementary School, the auction may benefit even more weavers when it moves to a larger facility at Navajo Technical College.

Weaving Worlds is a visually rich, thought-provoking production that I highly recommend to students and librarians. Above all, it is a tribute to the enduring spirit of the men and women who live by their art and traditions. “Somewhere, in the very core of my being,” Horseherder confides, “I want to weave rugs.”

Deborah Kelley-Galin is an artist and college instructor who teaches for the Transitional Studies Department at the University of New Mexico’s Gallup campus.

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