Biggest in the Southern Hemisphere or what?

There is a rumbling down-under. We are ‘turning the page’ with a new government, facing the challenge of a warming global agenda and considering a new place in the world of this young nation. What place might that be?

At Craft Victoria, we started to explore what we might have in common with countries of our region. Not the Asia-Pacific region to our north, but that other region, the Afro-Latin South at our end of the world. Over the last four years, the South Project has completed a cultural circuit: gatherings of artists in Melbourne, Wellington, Santiago and Johannesburg have shown a readiness to take off the blinkers and learn about the cultures sitting alongside each other. Buoyed by a generous hospitality, particularly from Indigenous peoples, we now have time to reflect on what’s been revealed.

For me, one particular moment endures. I was talking with a wire sculptor in Mpumalanga (previously South Africa’s Transvaal). Enoch Ngwenya is a self-taught artist who created his entire world from aluminium wire, not only sculptural works but also practical objects like wardrobes. After some small talk, he felt bold enough to ask me a burning question about Australia – ‘In your country, does the black man still bow down to the white man?’ I couldn’t say yes, that we had Apartheid, but I also couldn’t say no, that Australia is completely open to people of all colours. We are used to evaluating countries like South Africa in our terms of health and security. But how do we measure up in their eyes?

Sometimes, it seems almost an accident that we find ourselves in the South. It’s as though we were a respectable middle class family that lands on the other side of the tracks. Our place downunder is something we seek to rise above, evident in the common boast ‘biggest in the southern hemisphere’, which can apply to anything from Scottish Festivals to car parks. If you Google the phrase, you find there are more than 3,500 claims to this title. But how many if you search for ‘biggest in the northern hemisphere’? That there are only eight such claims (mostly icebergs) is hardly a sign that this hemisphere is lacking in distinction—precisely the opposite. Of course, anything of significance up there is likely to be the ‘biggest in the world’.

Is this southern aspirationalism a peculiarly Australian phenomenon? Identifying the claims by country (including Spanish and Portuguese versions of the phrase) reveals that Brazil (42%) has twice as many claims to ‘biggest in the Southern Hemisphere’ as Australia (21%). This is not surprising, given the scale of Brazil’s population and economy. But it’s a sober reminder that, despite images of hemispheric isolation such as ‘big pond’ and ‘great southern land’, we are not alone.

After focusing our gaze on the eastern hemisphere during the 20th century, it seems we are finally beginning a new chapter in the South. Many journals have recently published special issues on this theme, including Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Artlink, Griffith Law Review and the Australian Humanities Review (out soon). A new book titled Southern Theory by Sydney sociologist Raewyn Connell identifies an alternative source of ideas in our region. Questions are being posed.

There is a broader context at play. As we well know, the Kyoto Protocols are based on the assumption that any solution to climate change must involve an equal contract between first and third worlds, particularly respecting the right of poorer countries to reduce the economic gap with the other half. In Bali last year, Australia conspired with Argentina to extend the talks for an extra day, finally bringing the USA to the table.

We seem well-positioned as a mediator between first and third worlds. Our position in the South, long seen as a ‘tyranny of distance’, may prove to be a godsend.

How can the arts be part of this? With globalisation has come increasing collaboration between artists from first and third worlds: the modernist potential of one is exchanged for the deep cultural content of the other. Already well-established in world music scene, there is ‘multilateral’ dialogue now occurring in theatre, visuals, craft and design.

World arts aspire to be sustainable, democratic and innovative. OK, the first two terms are givens, but innovation is especially important. Innovation is not just the mixing of modern form and traditional content, but also in developing the trust necessary for that to develop. Behind the scenes is a web of negotiations between artists from the first and third world about what can be made of mutual benefit. It’s not without misunderstandings and resentment. But it exercises the assumption that there can be activities that please both worlds—metrosexual and villager alike.

These worlds meet everyday. There are those who drive taxis, and those who take them. If you want to know the Global South, hail a cab. More than likely you’ll find yourself a fascinating conversation about Kenya, Somalia or Ethiopia. This works particularly well in Australia. Elsewhere in the world, it is usual custom for the passenger to take the back seat, leaving the driver alone in the front. Not so here. This relative disregard for hierarchy makes Australia an excellent incubator for world arts.

Will we always be happy with the Deputy Sheriff honour ‘biggest in the Southern Hemisphere’? Or might one day we aspire to be a ‘close cousin of the South’? All will be revealed when we ‘turn the page’.

This was originally published in Arts Hub, 2008

Magicians of the South

It seems these days we are blessed, or cursed, by long-term incumbent governments. Yet despite their seeming inexorable hold on power, we know that eventually, as night follows day, the UK will eventually be Tory and Australia will be Labor.

For Hegel, the popular understanding of the dialectic is expressed in the phrase, ‘Live and let live… each should have its turn…’ While Hegel’s logic is most commonly applied to the relationships of social class, dialectics can be useful in understanding other hierarchies, such as the one we all live in—the world. History has conspired to divide the world up into quarters—north and south, east and west. The uneasy relationship between these parts has provided the engine of much that we know of as world history. Today, the process of globalisation is seen to realise the dominance of one quarter over another—the west over the east, and the north over the south.

The role of craft in this world dialectic is particularly interesting. The crafts movement has defined itself by reference to the creative energies of the northern peoples. We can see today, though, a new destiny for craft in the post-colonial predicament of the south. The purpose of this paper is to outline what this destiny might entail.

To find our way south, in the space of a few minutes, we need to begin at the start of our journey—the west.

The Greek world view was defined by contrast with the barbarians beyond its borders. The Persians by Aeschylus is the earliest known Greek play, taking as its theme the invasion from the east. After the defeat of Xerxes’ Persian armies in 490 BC, the chorus laments:

Now All Asia’s lands
Moan in emptiness

For post-colonialist Edward Said, this play sets the stage for the dialectic of orientalism that dominates the West’s imagining of the east in centuries to follow: to Asia is a lost glorious past that only the West can recover. I’m sure that we are all familiar with this position and it doesn’t bear rehearsing here.

Orientalism was clearly important in the development of Western decorative arts. Styles such as Chinoiserie helped the rigid Europeans break out of their rigid conventions and embrace the arabesque.


But such exoticism is vulnerable to the inevitable criticism of decadence. In the late nineteenth century, the Arts & Craft movement proposed an alternative polarity that replaced the lost civilisation of the East with one more directly related to Europeans—the noble world of the north. The spiritual centre of William Morris’s craft revolution was Iceland, which he described a ‘holy land’, evoking the romance of the Norse sagas. On a parallel path, John Ruskin praised the ‘magnificent enthusiasm’ of the Gothic.

Along the vertical moral axis of the Arts & Craft movement, the vigorous character of the north is contrasted with stultifying hierarchies of the Latinate south. There were ample precedents for such a hierarchy. Germania, written by Tacitus in the first century, marvelled at the rude energies of the northern races. In the mid-eighteenth century, Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws laid the philosophical foundation of the European state with a climatic analysis of politics, contrasting the sincere north with the passionate south.

This movement certainly had its timeliness.

This North-ism is an occidentalist alternative to the decadent fascination with an exotic orient. It turns the gaze back on the orientalist to question his own lost origins. But the dialectic never rests: North-ism leads to its own alternative (with an interest) in the spontaneous creative energy that lies in the south.

‘Each should have its turn.’


In the early twentieth-century, many French artists looked south to refresh their jaded imaginations. In 1930, Henri Matisse travelled to Tahiti ‘to find simpler ways which won’t stifle the spirit’. One of the distinctive crafts in that part of Polynesia is tivaevae, appliqué quilts in bright colours. This flat decorative style re-emerges in Matisse’s later works using the cut-out technique, such as the Jazz series. As far as we know, Matisse established no enduring relationship with Tahitian crafts practitioners. His debt to their tradition is never acknowledged.

Closer to our time, this primitivist idealisation is often directed to the indigenous races of the south. The 1989 exhibition Magicien de la Terre invited third world artisans who had for so long been an inspiration to French artists. They were taken out of their ethnographic cabinet to sit alongside the individual western artists in a contemporary art setting. Magicien de la Terre was widely criticised for its Benetton-like global context. These artisans were the exotic guests in a modernist palace.

At this point, I should acknowledge the hospitality of Edinburgh College of Art in allowing ten Australasian jewellers to present their work in conjunction with this conference. Guild Unlimited works its way into this argument as a neoclassical regeneration from the antipodes: the intensely hierarchical structures of guild from the old north are here opened up to a pluralistic imagination of the new colonies.

Returning to south-ism, there have been attempts in Australian decorative arts by those originally from the north to incorporate indigenous motifs. The Australian printmaker Margaret Preston called for a new school of decorative arts influenced by Aboriginal designs. In 1925, she called for a national theme based on indigenous crafts:

… I have studied the aboriginal’s art and have applied their designs to the simple things in life, hoping that the craftsman will succeed where, until now, the artist has certainly failed.

Though artists like Preston seemed to celebrate indigenous culture, they were largely oblivious to the need for Aboriginal participation in this process.

This brings us to the post-colonial phase of the world dialectic, when the subaltern eventually asks to take the lead. In their recent book Empire, Hardt and Negri draw on Sartre’s concept of the ‘the moment of the boomerang’ to describe this phase. Here the exotic other begins to speak back, and so Aboriginal Australians began to increasingly assert their independence. In Australia, every important occasion is now preceded by an acknowledgment of traditional owners.

Thus we have seen a flowering of Aboriginal crafts in Australia. Just to take one example, Tiwi Island ceramics, originally established by Michael Cardew, was recently revived and exhibited as Yikwani, containing sculptural works of great invention.

Craft has become so associated with Aboriginal culture that in a recent government report (Inquiry into the Contemporary Visual Arts and Crafts by Rupert Myer), the generic term ‘Art and Craft Centres’ was used to describe Aboriginal places for making art. It was assumed that an ‘Art and Craft Centre’ would not be something that non-indigenous Australians would use.

We might feel a sense of completion with such an arrangement, as though we were at the natural end of the dialectic, when the passive object of colonial fascination is finally the active agent in the construction of their own culture. Yet, as Soviet Marxists found to their dismay, the dialectic is never finished. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

The indigenous flowering of craft occurs surrounded by a non-indigenous audience. They are the writers, curators, gallery visitors, administrators, bureaucrats, art advisors and connoisseurs. They are the silent participants, enjoying the other’s enjoyment.

As the identity of place is increasingly deferred to the original people, the moral tenure of northerners gone south becomes problematic. The question is raised: what can they give in exchange for the exotic delights they receive from the southern peoples?

And here we come to the present crisis in south-ism. In recent years, this has become especially evident with the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, and the increasing recognition of first peoples in Australia and New Zealand.

Politically, bi-polar dialogue seems stymied with fears of land claims. Sport is often seen as the level playing field for Western and traditional, but there is little evolution of understanding. However, quietly working away in their studios, craft practitioners are stitching, soldering and dove-tailing together two otherwise incompatible cultures.

I’d like to mention briefly some developments in what used to be called the ‘southern dominions’.


To begin in Australia, textiles tend to be the preferred medium for craft exchange between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures. In Western Australia, the fibre artist Nalda Searles has developed a strong collaborative method with Aboriginal artists—Noongar in the south and Ngaanyatjarra in the Western desert.

In her art, Nalda Searles has been exploring ways of combining natural and man-made fibres. This includes embroidery of flora on found fabric, such as blankets and clothes. Her work reflects on the tenuous place of white people in this land. Searle’s signature piece is White Boy Blazer, a school uniform on which have been sewn the brachia of Xanthorrhea, known colloquially as Black Boy. Each of these brachia has been painted white, showing the uneasy tension between settlement and the wild bush beyond.

As a result of her long involvement with Ngaanyatjarra people, Nalda Searles is known by the word Kabbarli, which means ‘grandmother’. This term had been applied most famously to another woman living in the Nullarbor Plain a century earlier—Daisy Bates. Searles is currently developing a series of works that explore the confrontation between European dress and the more natural indigenous ornament. Bates’ morning toilet is a fascinating ordeal of Western decorum sustained in dramatic isolation. She writes,

I made my toilet to a chorus of impatient twittering. It was a fastidious toilet, for throughout my life I have adhered to the simple but exact dictates of fashion as I left it, when Victoria was queen—a neat white blouse, stuff collar and ribbon tie, a dark skirt and coast, stout and serviceable, trim shows and neat black stockings, a sailor hat and a fly-veil, and, for my excursions to the camps, always a dust-coat and a sunshade. Not until I was in meticulous order would I emerge from my tent, dressed for the day. My first greeting was for the birds.

This encounter between Western dress and southern wild nature provide the perfect scene for Searles’ craft process. Initi gloves combines the white gloves that Daisy Bates wore all the time during her dealings with the Aborigines and the initi seeds that they wore in their hair.

Searles’ combines both modern and traditional elements in a way that exposes their separation.

New Zealand

The dialogue mellows as we cross the Tasman Sea. There has been a more consistent history of reciprocal dealings between the Maori’s and their British guests. In the spirit of bi-culturalism, those of European descent refer to themselves as Maori term, Pakeha, meaning ‘those who arrive on ships with tall white sails’.

In the twentieth-century, there was much interest by Pakeha in the Maori ornamental traditions. This culminated in the Stone, Bone & Shell exhibition which toured Australia in 1988. It included jewellers and sculptors who drew from the Maori carving traditions, especially using Pounamu, or greenstone.

In 1998, the school was criticised for its appropriation of Maori culture. The jeweller Warwick Freeman was singled out as a ‘plunderer of the Pacific’. At a conference in Hobart in 1998, Freeman defended his practice as a form of dialogue between cultures.

Bi-culturalism calls for active exchange between the cultures—art is a fundamental participant in this engagement—it functions well in the so called ‘negotiated space’ – the space between two cultures

More recently in New Zealand, there have been a number of Polynesian artists, especially from Samoa, who have begun to exploit this irony. Niki Hastings-McFall is of Samoan descent and combines in her work reference to traditional islander forms and modern symbols, such as the conjunction of Solomon Island breastplates and modern symbols such as mag wheels. Her series ‘Flock’ uses the techniques of traditional breastplates but incorporates alternative materials, pearl shell and silver. Included in the radial design are aeroplane symbols which reflect an ironic continuity of traditional and modern.

For all the inevitable conflicts and misunderstandings, New Zealand craft appears to play on a relatively reciprocal exchange between Western and traditional cultures.

South Africa

The parallel path of relations between first and subsequent peoples has taken a dramatic turn in South Africa. Under the Dutch Reform Church, Afrikaners saw themselves as the chosen people and their Great Trek was a journey to the Promised Land. Now, in the Rainbow Nation, they must take their place amongst the heathens not as masters but as equals.

Apartheid had extended to the arts as much as politics. There had been little appropriation of African crafts by settler artists. The curios that could be purchased during holiday treks to the Transvaal were largely imported from countries like Congo and Nigeria.

It’s different now.

New crafts have emerged as hybrids of traditional technique and modern lifestyle. Telephone wire weaving was developed initially by city nightwatchmen, who sought to fill their time by weaving as they would in their village home. Without natural grasses, they were forced to gather whatever was to hand. Odd pieces of telephone wire provided particularly colourful materials for weaving.

Today, telephone wire weaving has become the main source of income for villages like the township of Umlassi in Durban. It has reached the stage now where the main telecommunications company Telkom distribute the wire for free—for the practical reason that otherwise people would steal wires off the poles and so disrupt the telephone system.

While these crafts provide important sources of income, they have not as yet been able to establish themselves as individual artists with reputations in their own right.

Among visual artists gaining reputation in the new South Africa are Zulu men who aspire to the status as healers. These are often charismatic figures whose work is informed by visions.

Lange Magwa looks particularly to objects that are held as sacred to both Western and traditional cultures. ‘Made in China’ is a large gramophone horn woven from cow hide, inside which is a speaker broadcasting in different languages represented in Durban radio. It rests on a springbok hide which is laid over an Indian fabric. For Magwa, his work aims to operate magically to heal the rift between the three main races of Durban. In Zulu ritual, the horn is used as a symbol of magical protection: it can be ground up as healing powder, used as a container of medicine or added to other objects, like a house, to protect it from evil spirit. By finding a link with the European white magic of the gramophone, Magwa is extending the power of the horn into the new South Africa.

So where does this leave white Africans? Many white artists have moved now from their own work to facilitating others. One such artist is Andreas Botha. He has established a philanthropic project, Amazini Abisifazane (Voices of Women). This is a cooperative venture presenting embroideries by women about their traumatic experiences. While such projects are important to the economic development of the new South Africa, they do risk entrenching a victimary identity on the previously disadvantaged.

Botha’s own sculptural installations move towards greater self-understanding. In his monumental series What is a Home (1995), a three-metre high steel-plated man with Afrikaner hat is clutching a straw woman in Zulu headdress performing a dance known in Afrikaans as binne boet (‘inside the arse’). In his own work, Andreas is attempting to uncover the folk tradition of Afrikaner culture to find something that is more complementary to the Zulu values.

Contemporary sculptors in the new South Africa are drawing on their own craft traditions to weave together the black and white cultures that have been kept strictly separate during most of their lives. There’s a long way to make up.

Magicians of the south

And here we get to the bottom of things. The bottom of the world is emerging as a forum whereby the European self and its exotic other can finally meet and engage in reciprocal dialogue. This ‘south’ offers a backstage where the exotic actors can exchange masks with their ordinary audience.

In this setting, craft provides an important common language whereby exchange can develop between traditional artisans and Western artists. Old techniques can combine with introduced materials. Alien symbols emerge out of traditional patterns. Using the charismatic authority of magicians, prophets, healers and artists, these individuals can realise new similarities and differences between the two worlds that find each other in the south.

The wrongs of the past certainly demand reparation. Someone needs to say sorry. But the process of empowerment still bears the legacy of colonial paternalism. ‘Live and let live’ carries an onerous responsibility—not only to allow others to fulfil their lives, but live one’s own as well. While global culture offers a nowhere-land of vicarious experience, the local cultures of the south provide a way of re-orienting ourselves where we are, if we can listen.


G.W.F. Hegel Logic (trans. W. Wallace) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975 (orig. 1830)

Edward Said Orientalism New York: Pantheon, 1978, p. 57

Fiona MacCarthy William Morris: A Life for Our Times London: Faber, 1994, p. 309

John Ruskin Stones of Venice New York: Da Capo Press, 1960 (orig. 1853), p. 176

Thomas McEvilley Art & otherness: crisis in cultural identity Kingston, NY: Documentext/McPherson, 1992, pp. 69-70

Margaret Preston ‘The indigenous art of Australia’ Art in Australia 1925, , pp. 3-11

Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri Empire Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 130

Daisy Bates The Passing Of The Aborigines: A Lifetime Spent Among The Natives Of Australia London: Murray, 1938, p. 198

Where North meets South

Notes for the keynote – ‘Where North Meets South:  The Promise of Transnational Law as a Platform for Creative Collaborations’ University of Melbourne South of International Law symposium, July 2010 (2010)

In 1538, the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator created his first world map. This ‘double cordiform’ is a romantic design arranging the northern and southern hemispheres in matching heart-shaped frames. These shapes reflect the distortion that occurs when transforming a sphere into a flat plane. Unfortunately, the ‘double cordiform’ was not successful in its time as navigators found it difficult to trace continuous journeys. However, his projection thirty years later found much greater success, as it made sense of the broader trade and military routes unfolding at that time. Fatefully, it placed Europe towards the top centre.

There are two halves to the world.

The question is how they connect to each other.

North-South relations


The dominant paradigm in the modern era is developmentalism. At one end, this entails the North lending assistance to the South so that it might raise it up to the North’s standards. From the other end, the South aspires to gain recognition by the North. While going down the line are missionaries, consultants, importers to assist the building of capacity in the South, moving up is a heady mixture of cargo cult, consumerism and talent drain. For every third world banana republic there is a ‘Paris of the South’.

This paradigm roughly constitutes what we call regional studies. Here core disciplines based in transatlantic centres direct their attention to the foibles of non-western parts of the world.


Any attempt to create a hierarchy leaves open the possibility of its reversal. One hermeneutic strategy of reversal entails the revealing of a hidden debt to the South in the North. This is the nature of Martin Bernal’s book Black Athena,[1] which points the influence on classic Greek thought of its African antecedents. A more modest move in this direction can be found in the school of New Southern Studies, which focused on the multicultural influences on the southern literature of the United States. Keith Cartwright’s Reading Africa into American Literature[2] identified the influence of Senegambian culture on the development of American modernism, particularly the culture of the jazz era.

While lacking the dialectical framework of other critical hermeneutic frameworks, such as psychoanalysis and Marxism, this approach offers the academic strategy of undermining the north-south hierarchy by revealing the indebtedness of the North to the South.

In the cultural realm, reversal appears in two different forms. In a carnivalesque manner, what is low becomes high. So the movement of abajismo, or ‘lowism’, in Chile celebrates all the qualities that consign it to a lesser country. This is particularly so of the ‘poor’ arts that use found materials, such as Pablo Neruda Elementary Odes.

The alternative movement comes from the other Atlantic side of South America in Brazil and Argentina, who have at different times conceived themselves as inheriting cultural leadership from Europe. The concept of anthropophagi in Brazil celebrates the cannibalisation of Western culture and the emergence of a new ‘tropical man’. This has emerged recently with the work of cultural theorist Antônio Cícero who has argued for a neo-Cartesianism. Alternatively, the history of Jorge Luis Borges in Argentina is related to the journal Sur, which was

Sur would never be greatly interested in the specific problems of the continent, for the patrimony of Argentina was, in Borges’ later phrase, that of the universe.[3]


More recently, there have been attempts to conceive of a South that is independent of the North, neither follower nor leader. In critical theory, this is evident in Indigenous Studies .The Latin American concept of indigenismo is celebrated by writers like Walter Mignolo, [4] along with other Southern mentalities such as creolism and hybridity. The Lusophone sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos[5] outlines an ‘epistemology of the south’ which reflected a grounded knowledge that seeks to account for its political implications. In the terms outlined by Amartya Sen in his Idea of Justice, the South proposes a consequential or nyaya ideal of justice, as opposed to the Northern deontic ideal, or niti.


Closer to home, the work by sociologist Raewyn Connell in his book Southern Theory[6]argues on the basis of the geopolitics of knowledge for an alternative to the centripetal reduction of theory to the transatlantic centres. For Connell, this alternative can be found in the lateral connections between countries on the periphery. As she writes:

It is possible to reshape the circuits through which social-scientific knowledge moves, to modify — since we cannot quickly end — the metropolitan focus. The intellectuals of rich peripheral countries such as Australia, and of the privileged classes in countries like Mexico, Chile, India, South Africa and Brazil, have significant resources for intellectual work and the circulation of knowledge. Because of their location in the post-colonial world, they have — or can have — perspectives which overlap with those of subaltern majorities.[7]

For Connell, what separates the South from the North it its sense of compassion… Franz Fanon the ‘wretched of the earth.’


The territory that we have covered so far will seem familiar. Now we move into less chartered waters, when we consider the framework in which North and South might be seen to co-exist.

This would follow a concept of the world like Goethe’s that global differences form part of a dynamic whole rather than an unevenness.

If I were not driven by my German mentality and a desire to learn and do, rather than to enjoy, I would linger somewhat longer in this school of light and merry living and try to profit from it more…

And now, after all this pleasure and hundreds of others, the Sirens are luring me across the sea, and, if the wind is favorable, I shall leave at the same time as this letter, it to the north, and I to the south. The human mind balks at limits, and I, especially, have great need of the wide world. (22/03/1787)[8]

Globalisation in the modern era can be seen to entail a division of the world between the modern Northern nations forging ahead into the future and the traditional Southern societies maintaining their cultural heritage. So the cultural arm of UNESCO concerns itself with helping to preserve Southern traditions as a part of humanity’s heritage. In very broad terms, this division of labour separates the economic from the cultural.

Some might claim this as a scam to make the South feel comfortable about its economic disenfranchisement.

Professor Ali Mazrui in a 1998 speech in Cape Town, when he said of the 1994 compromise: ‘You wear the crown, we’ll keep the jewels.’

But is the alternative to reduce everything to economic terms?

Might it be possible to come up with an agreement between North and South about this arrangement?

How could such an arrangement avoid exploitation?

Transnational law

As is well recognised in this setting, transnational law has played a significant role in the globalisation process. For the development of international corporations that can spread their supply chains over great distances, it has been necessary to creative private legal instruments that ensure consistency and trust from Southern mines to Northern shops.

Ethical consumerism

One genre of international law has responded to the emergence of what is called ‘ethical consumerism’. Here there is recognition that raising standards is not only a matter of meeting demands of workers but also responding to concerns of consumers as well. The fate of the fur coat stands as an exemplary case of how an entire industry can be wiped out due to consumer concerns. The issue of blood diamonds is the cause of much anxiety in the jewellery industry for similar reasons. The challenge is to create a transparency across the supply chain so that the customer in Tiffany’s can know how the diamond on their engagement ring was sourced.

Arguably the most visible manifestation of transnational law has been Fair Trade. Their certification process attempts to verify that certain standards in production have been adhered to, particularly those of the ILO.

When you buy a block Fair Trade chocolate, there is an implied solidarity between North and South.

Many other more commercial standards are evolving now. For example, World of Good…

While these do offer solidarity, they do reproduce a power relationship between producer and consumer nations.

Creative Collaborations

There are interesting developments occurring in the area of product design. While the handmade has usually been associated with the local, manual craft processes are increasingly being outsourced.

Two examples in Australia, with Koskela and Better World Arts.

This reflects a changing strategy from bodies such as UNESCO, which attempt to promote heritage through what they term ‘creative industries’ such as design and fashion. This relies on market forces to encourage innovation in traditional cultures to assist their economic sustainability.

The Designers Meet Artisans publication.

Here is a potential partnership between North and South. But how to ensure that it is reciprocal?

The Code of Practice for Creative Collaborations is an attempt to work with major stakeholders to develop a common set of standards. Part of this involves navigating through quite complex terrain of laws, particularly in intellectual property.

The balance is going to be towards the consumer in terms of setting standards. Like the ‘good print’, the attempt is going to be to provide consumers with information. Rather than just checking boxes, this is going to enable individual stories to travel with the object.

This considers ethics not just a constraint on creative freedom but as a framework for storied value.

But on its own, this arrangement produces the producer/consumer divide. One area to explore is the creation of a covenant in which the consumer will agree to particular conditions in the way they use the product.

This is very much a project and we welcome participation from those interested in being part.

[1] Martin Bernal Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization London: Free Association, 1987

[2] Keith Cartwright Reading Africa Into American Literature: Epics, Fables, and Gothic Tales Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 2004

[3] John King Sur: A Study of the Argentine Literary Journal and its Role in the Development of a Culture, 1931-1970 New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986

[4] Walter Mignolo The Idea of Latin America Oxford: Blackwell, 2005

[5] Boaventura de Sousa Santos 2006 Beyond abyssal thinking: From global lines to ecologies of knowledges

[6] Raewyn Connell Southern Theory: The global dynamics of knowledge in social science St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2007

[7] Raewyn Connell Southern Theory: The global dynamics of knowledge in social science St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2007, p. 228

[8] J.W. Goethe Italian Journey (trans. Robert R. Heitner) New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994 (orig. 1786), p. 177