Examples abound across the world of how indigenous peoples have renewed their collective spirit and heritage through the instrumentality of art and craft. The experiences of Australian aboriginal artists, Ainu artists and the Igbo Uli exponents in eastern Nigeria and others provide models of how craft can reinvent and promote culture and heritage as well as reinforce identities through its populist tendencies.
Indigenous peoples all over the world have various means of expressing their art and ethno-aesthetics. For the Igbo of eastern Nigeria, for instance, their heritage cannot be fully discussed without a look at the almost extinct Uli body and wall painting practiced by Igbo women. In Australia as well as Japan, indigenous peoples continue to re-invent their culture and heritage through the soft power of art and craft. In the Igbo experience, the decline of Uli art in the postcolonial period is a reflection of the sorry state of cultural heritage in Igbo land and Nigeria in general. In response to this decline, the United States Embassy in Nigeria recently supported workshops for students and village women to adapt Uli motifs in craft, utility design and econo-art and to create a new frontier in the creative industries, while challenging notions of contemporaneity and modernity. Using the Uli experiment, Australian and Ainu successes and other similar cases as examples, this panel invites papers on the capacity of craft and econo-art to embody, promote and renew cultural experiences, ethno-aesthetics and heritage as in the bid to confront the challenges and conflicts at the heart of postcoloniality.