Culture – Weekly Photo Challenge

Google the word ‘culture’ and over 8 million results will pop up.

As Communicating Across Boundaries readers you know well the concept and the meaning of ‘culture’. As Edward Hall says “Culture is man’s medium”. It’s the way we make decisions, do government, create infrastructure, educational systems, court and marry, raise children. It encompasses all of life. So though I have never opted to take part in the weekly photo challenge hosted by WordPress, this week I had to. Choosing one picture to represent ‘Culture’ does not do the topic justice – but nor would a hundred pictures.

Today I’m posting three pictures that represent ‘culture’ to me. The first two are pictures of spices in spice shops in Cairo and Istanbul. The way the East sells spices is in stark contrast to the way the west sells them: the east in large burlap bags, the pungent aroma wafting through the air causing you to breathe in and sometimes sneeze; the west –  in pristine bottles with efficient labels to sit happily on your shelves. And the way Pakistanis store spices is also a contrast – so that is why I have posted the third picture – My Masala Dabba.

What I wish I could do is have all of you link up pictures that represent culture to you, instead I’ll ask you to use word-pictures. What picture would you post and why?

Culture

spices in baskets

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25 thoughts on “Culture – Weekly Photo Challenge

  1. I would post a picture of Bronwynn in kindergarten. It was our first American Thanksgiving back in the US. She was so excited to dress up as one of the Indians for the Thanksgiving Pageant in school. She planned on dressing up in one of her lingas from India, complete with a duputta and her sparkly bangles. That’s the picture i’d send in… ! It was such a sweet innocent cultural mistake!

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      1. Beth has the 4S; Kerry and Siah each have a 5. I have a blackberry flip. My phone has a camera, but it is kind of old and needs to be replaced. I just will miss the nice little keyboard. :(

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  2. “Culture” shows up more clearly when contrasted with a culture that differs from it in notable ways…so in that spirit I would send you two photographs. They are both pictures of multi-generational families enjoying a meal together. The first is from a Christmas celebration with extended family a few years back. Four generations are gathered around a rectangular table, their plates heaped with a multitude of holiday goodies. People are dressed up. There are smiles, laughter, and a small child in the foreground enjoying his new toys. The second picture was taken in my village in the Dominican Republic on a regular day (not a holiday). The family is seated outdoors in a tight circle of chairs and benches, with the kids sitting on the ground. All are enjoying their simpler fare rice and beans with smiles and laughter. The clothes are dirty and worn, since the men are in from the farm fields to eat. The baby is naked. Intermixed with the crowd are a rooster, a puppy trying to lick a kid’s plate, and a large pig in the foreground. The context and the flavor of these two pictures are totally different…but the story is the same! Families gathering to share what they have with one another, and bask in the joy of one another’s company. That, to me, is one of the coolest things about exploring cultural differences…finding those common stories in the midst of contextual difference.

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    1. Love this comment – and food itself holds so much meaning in terms of culture. I love your word pictures – they bring me right into the gathering, I can perfectly imagine this. all that means you’re a great writer!

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  3. Love the masala dabba! I never had one – I’m not sure why – I have proper spoons for stirring and cooking my rice and for serving it. Then Carol gave me hers when she moved to Istanbul. I’m not sure why she wanted to give it up, but I love having one. Culture just seems too broad and deep a subject or concept to capture in many pictures.

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    1. I think we need to make sure you get a masala dabba Mom! I can’t believe we’ve not yet corrected that situation. You would love it. Agreed about how impossible it is to capture culture in a picture…

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  4. Love the spice pictures and miss that mode of shopping from Morocco.
    I would post a picture of a wedding. There are so many special traditions in Morocco in connection to weddings that truly reflect their culture

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  5. I love your pictures, especially your masala dabba. I had one like it, but didn’t bring it. All my masalas line the cupboard in little glass jars that I got from the dollar shop. It was the only shop I could buy that many of the same kind of bottles. I would post a picture of little kids from all over the world holding hands, smiling and wearing their traditional dresses ( if I could get them to stand still long enough).

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    1. Love the word picture of all the kids…And so good to hear from you again! My masala dabba is one of my favorite possessions. My husband gave it to me along with proper pans for curries (the stainless steel with copper bottoms and a handle on each side!) for a Christmas present a couple of years ago. It makes curry so much more legitimate!

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  6. I’d love to send you a faded photo of family around my grandmother’s round, well-worn wooden table, in her warm yellow kitchen, with a red linoleum floor. She never had a dining room so the kitchen was the gathering place at all times. If it’s before dinner, we are all helping to prepare the meal, my grandmother presiding over the proceedings from her usual chair on the side of the table between the sink and the stove. If it’s after dinner, we’ve cleared up, filled the dishwasher and washed the pots in hot sudsy water. We are vigorously playing cards, a betting game called bourré, which is particular to southern Louisiana. You’d see three or even four generations, playing for small change, laughing and teasing and relishing our time together. Younger children, not yet allowed a seat or a hand would be leaning over shoulders and learning the game. They can’t wait to be big enough to join the fun.

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    1. Stacy – Love this so much. This is like a blog post in itself, thank you. You make me want to be there either playing cards with the best of them, or off to the side observing all the interactions!

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  7. Indeed Marilyn, spices in every color, aroma, subtlety, strength, common, exotic, all illustrating diversity and reminding me of the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” This is culture. I can’t think of a better image than yours.

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    1. Thank you Bettie! At first I was going to post a picture of a group of people, but the more I considered it, the more I thought spices were a far better option. And the quote you used says it all.

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  8. I’ve always loved the array of spices in markets all over the world – really no comparison to the “efficient” and sealed up spice jars in the grocery stores. I also agree with your take on culture – even 100 pics wouldn’t do the theme justice. I tried in my own culture post, with several dozen pics, all in different cultural categories. Would love for you to stop by and give some input…..

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    1. Heading to your space right now. It is so interesting isn’t it how we both buy, store, and use spices so differently from east to west? It is symbolic of so many things. Thanks for stopping by!

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      1. The more I wrote, the more I remembered. Both of my grandparents are gone now and we finally sold their house about a year ago. Just about broke my heart but I knew it had to be done. Thanks for the invitation to walk down memory lane.

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      2. That’s one of the great things about writing isn’t it? Especially for those of us who have moved often. Walking down these memories and capturing them with words. In our era of quick messaging, I realize it’s more than a good exercise – it’s essential for history to continue to be passed down even as hard drives crash and viruses take away our stuff! Time to print up some of my ‘memory’ posts!

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