Folk Art = Folk Aesthetic?

When I sought up the definition of folk aesthetic, I landed across the term “folk art”. There was not a specific definition for folk aesthetic but for folk art it stated “FOLK ART is an expression of the world’s traditional cultures. FOLK ART is rooted in traditions that come from community and culture – expressing cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. FOLK ART encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more” (International Folk Art Market). You may have noticed that folk art is written in full capital letters, indicating a wish for those words to be seen rather than disregarded. Call & Response within their inclusion of so many different works creates its own definition of folk aesthetic and in turn is its own version of FOLK ART. One that incorporates originality, compassion, and information. 

Folk aesthetics represents people, culture, and art. Within the text Call & Response the folk people are people of color and the aesthetics shown are seen through their songs, stories, and the people. Call & Response uses the voices and pieces of Black people to illustrate their lives as everyday people. On the back of the cover page it has a illustration of the Tribes of the West African Coast in the era of the slave trade. What this does for the reader is that it sets the tone of the piece. Call & Response is an overall masterpiece of the pieces that Black individuals have contributed to society. This illustration of the West African Coast in the era of the slave trade highlights the various cultures that make up the continent of Africa. For instance, it highlights Ibo, Fons, Fulani, and Susu cultures. As a reader this left an imprint on how I view this text, before it was a textbook that I had to purchase for class but now it is a piece that represents the people that I call my ancestors. 

Within the use of songs readers are met with lyrics that represent the internal struggle that people of color were subject to. In the song We Raise de Wheat it states, “ Wee raise de wheat, dey gib us de corn; we bake de bread, dey gib us de cruss; we sif de meal, dey gib us de huss; we peal de meat, dey gib us de skin and dat’s de way dey takes us in” (241). This song illustrates the day to day life of many enslaved individuals, “we baker de bread, dey gib us dee cruss” in other words represents the labor aspect of these people. Many enslaved individuals cooked the meals their enslavers ate but as a return they were left with scraps. However, one other thing Call & Response does that highlights aesthetically is keeping the songs original, they use the words “dey” and “dee” that represents uniqueness in the way many people communicated.

The song used above is different from Gospel songs that are sung with guitar and piano. Call & Response acknowledges their dependence upon bodily rhythmic movement in illustrating Black worship, love, struggle, and faith. Take My Hand, Precious Lord by Thomas A. Dorsey embodies compassion. He sings “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night. Lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” (804). Dorsey’s gospel song in many ways can be viewed as a story. He tells a story about being tired and weak but within the same lines talked about wanting to be led to the light and wanting to stand. This relates back to the song We Raise de Wheat where there is a feeling of weariness but also of possibilities. 

The use of short stories in this piece of art allows for folk aesthetics to highlight the realities of individuals that can be seen today. When reading Call & Response we can get sucked into the world of the past, we read about people, songs that are not recent, etc. But these short stories are key in understanding the lasting effects of culture. In the story Everyday Use by Alice Walker we are met with a family that showcases many forms of identity and art. One of the main characters Dee has reached a point in her life where she wants to claim her new identity, not the one that was given to her by her ancestors “enslavers”. However, it is the inclusion of the quilts that is connecting. The quilts to this family of three consist of connections to the past that showcase the progression of the future. Using Alice Walker’s work, Call & Response has demonstrated the concept of identity seen through quilts. These quilts are FOLK ART, they are rooted in tradition and culture while encompassing a combination of patterns and cloths. 

Call & Response can be looked at as a quilt. It has many layers of information, patterns that are seen through songs, short stories, rap lyrics, etc. And it embodies the concept of time, 20 years from now another college student might purchase this book and leave with their own interpretation that adds on to the significance of this quilt (Call & Response). 

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