Surrounded by deep mountains of Guizhou Province in south-central China, the Kam minority village of Dimen has developed unique customs, stories, songs and designs that differentiate it from other places. Without any written records, Dimen’s unique heritage is suddenly at the brink of extinction as the bearers of traditional knowledge and skills pass away.
Design Response Summary
Collaborating with the Dimen Dong Cultural Eco Museum that resides in the village, Marie Lee and a team of undergraduate graphic design students at the University of the Pacific documented the unique craft processes: papermaking, weaving, indigo dyeing and embroidery. Local customs, stories and folklore were also collected. A detailed record exists now of the unique techniques that can be built upon in the future by both researchers and the villagers alike.
Participation Methods Summary
In 2010, Marie Lee and Anastasya Uskov apprenticed with five elderly matriarchs for five weeks and Marie Lee continued the work for another three weeks in 2011 and for one week in 2014. They recorded their craft processes through video, sound recordings, notes and drawings. They interviewed the women about their lives, their beliefs and values to gain perspective to their knowledge. A special emphasis has been given to hands-on learning as opposed to pure observation where key techniques can be easily missed. Lee and Uskov then replicated the process from scratch to make sure every detail was addressed.
Measurement Method Summary
The findings will be published in a book form in English with hopes of it being translated into Chinese. A short documentary film will accompany the book and movie segments will also be incorporated in the form of online supplements. The results and documentaries will be made available at the Museum to be accessed by researchers, visitors and the villagers. This way, part of Dimen’s cultural heritage is preserved for the future and the crafts can be picked up by new generation of craftsmen.
Books sold, number of participants in workshops on Kam crafts for Dimen’s youngsters, positive surveys given to workshop attendees will be used to measure effectiveness.
Five Dimen matriarchs and their friends let us apprentice with them,
invited us to outings and family activities
Community members shared customs, stories, songs and other folklore
Results of Design
Preservation of Kam culture
A record of Dimen crafts and other heritage exists that will be accessible to community and researchers