June 24, 2010

Buffalo Holder

buffalo_arts_papoose_LIFE.jpg

In 1965, Buffalo had a Festival of the Arts the likes of which Buffalo had never seen. It was wall-to-wall avant-garde art, theatre, music, dance, and film--and it was packed. Among the 150,000+ people who attended the John Cage concerts, nude dance performances by Yvonne Rainer, Warhol film screenings, and the Op Art & Kinetic Art exhibit at the Albright-Knox Gallery--the "traditionalists" who were somewhat shocked at what had become of their cultural institutions, and the "younger generation," what the NY Times called, "the beards and their girls."

One of those girls seems to have brought her kid along. In an honest-to-goodness papoose. Ralph Crane seems to have followed this mom around the Albright-Knox, though her picture didn't make it into the LIFE Magazine's coverage of the Festival.

A zoom into several photos of the cradleboard show that it's no antique: it's made from plywood and canvas. So even if they didn't go in for the full swaddle, or the forehead molding, some back-to-the-land beards and their girls in the 60s were scoring modernized American Indian baby gear.

Or making it. It varies by tribe, but it's usually the dad's job to make a cradleboard, then the mom and her female relatives would decorate it. Holy smokes, it sounds really complicated. And while half the Indian message boards I've found are full of dreamy cradleboard memories, the rest are slightly freaked out requests for help with Beading 101.

It goes without saying that the CPSC has not developed safety standards for cradleboards, though if you ask real nice, the JPMA might print out some pretty certification stickers for you anyway.

LIFE, Apr 23, 1965: "Could This Be Buffalo?" [life magazine via google books, thanks dt reader andrew]

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