Local Identity

Design Problem
With a unique language, culture and history, the Dimen Kam have proudly resisted assimilation for centuries. However in the 1990s a large number of young people began to leave the village to make a more lucrative living in faraway factories. Television and satellite brought the mainstream Chinese culture to every home making the Kam want to be like everyone else.

Working Process / Design Response Summary

In collaboration with the local Dimen Dong Eco-Museum, the team collected local stories and songs. They photographed embroideries, paper purses and woodcarvings. The motifs are being converted to vector graphics with help of the public as well as Pacific students. The motifs that will be given to the village to promote local identity.

Screen-printing workshops gave the local artisans a way to express their aesthetics in contemporary contexts. The ultimate goal is to empower local artisans and designers to carry their local identity and cultural heritage into the digital age.

Screen printing workshops targeting the younger generation raised awareness of and stimulated interest in local identity and traditional crafts through combining local design motifs with non-traditional technology.

Pacific students have also created documentary projects involving children and young adults from Dimen. Lee’s Graphic Design I class created a coloring book featuring Dimen animals. Lee distributed several copies among children during her 2014 workshops.

Research Methods Summary
Interviewing / Observations / Descriptive writing or drawing / Multimedia documentation / Replication of craft processes / Workshops

Participation Methods Summary
The team has photographed the embroideries created by several artisans to capture the breadth of the motifs indigenous to Dimen. With help of Graphic Design 1 students and volunteers from the public, we are converting the found motifs into vector drawings. The team interviewed and observed Wu Meng Xi making embroidery motifs. The artisans also shared traditional stories and songs.

The community was directly involved in the workshops with both adults and children repeatedly participating. We had 30 children and seven Dimen Eco Museum staff attended multiple sessions. Six artisans demonstrated the screen-printing techniques to several hundred atendees of the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Measurement Method Summary
The motifs that were collected will be given to the village to promote local identity. Workshops have stimulate interest in local identity and traditional crafts through combining local design motifs with modern technology. Number and variety of workshops, number of attendees, pre- and post-workshop attitude surveys are used to verify success. We will monitor whether any artistic expressions beyond what is created by the elderly artisans is started in the village.

Community Involvement

  • Dimen women shared their embroideries, taught us how to embroider
    and answered questions regarding color, design aesthetics and concepts
    behind designs

  • Dimen shaman showed how to make magic paper cutouts

  • Ten children took pictures of their daily activities and surrounding

  • Five young adults were interviewed about their experiences and goals

  • Museum staff participated in teaching workshops to children and youth

What are the results of design?

  • Boosting of local identity and self-worth

  • Raising awareness and interest by children

  • Senior community members taking a leadership role and teaching the younger generation about their heritage, culture and aesthetics

  • Equipping artisans with simple techniques that can be applied without much technology but that are not seen as archaic

  • Workshop participants apply and disseminate the design motifs to various projects after the workshops have finished

Artifacts and Events