Using insights gleaned from shipwright Harold Burnham and West African hereditary musician Balla Kouyaté, this paper questions western concepts of authenticity and the meaning of “original” in highly-valued cultural objects made of perishable materials. The 13th century Sosso Balla is revered not because its original materials have been preserved but because it is the material embodiment of a living tradition maintained by performance. Similarly, the Sylvina Beal is valued because by deconstructing, rehabilitating, and sailing her, a town remains connected to its shipbuilding heritage. It is the human-to-human transmission of how to build, refurbish, and use an object where true value lies.
Part of 04-13 Conservation and Destruction of Material Culture, Friday, November 03, 8:30 am–10:00 am