Learn about their origins, traditions and crafts
Come with us as we discover some of the most fascinating communities from around the world and learn about their origins, their traditions and how they’ve developed over time. From ancient civilizations that have stood the test of time to newly formed communities that break stereotypes, get an insight into how these people came together.
1. The Haenyeo Community in South Korea
The haenyeo community is a group of female divers in the Korean province of Jeju. The word “haenyeo” refers to the women who gather seaweed, abalone and other shellfish from the sea. Jeju’s diving tradition started way back in 434AD, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that the amount of female divers outweighed the male. Supposedly this shift occurred because of a significant number of men dying at sea due to war and deep-sea fishing accidents.
With their knowledge of the sea and marine life, the haenyeo harvest for up to 7 hours a day, 90 days of the year, holding their breath for just one minute for every dive. Before a dive, prayers are said to the Jamsgut, goddess of the sea, to ask for safety and an abundant catch. You can discover more about the haenyeo’s day-to-day here, and the tools this resilient community uses here.
2. The Miao embroiderers in China
Embroidery is a traditional folk art of the Miao people who live in the mountains of Southern China. Historically, Miao embroidery has been considered one of China’s 5 great traditions of embroidery. It is a craft handed down from generation to generation among Miao women, who produce works of art inspired by traditional Miao songs and legends.
In Miao villages, girls begin learning embroidery from their mothers and aunts at a young age. Starting from the age of 15, girls begin to hand embroider their own dowry, an ornate embroidered garment. While they work they are not only refining their skills as embroiderers, they are also coming to know their own culture.
Each pattern illustrates a specific aspect of Miao culture and history, making embroidery an extraordinary heritage that is vital to preserve. The Miao embroidery has a great abundance of needleworks, and you can see examples of the varied embroidery here.
3. Pokfulam Village on Hong Kong Island
Pokfulam is the only village left on Hong Kong Island and is perched on a hillside on the west side of the island. In 1885, it was home to the Dairy Farm Group, which was set up to provide Hong Kong with fresh milk. While it no longer exists in Pokfulam, old cowsheds can be seen on the hillside.
The community's most important tradition is the Fire Dragon Dance, which takes place during the mid-autumn festival every year. An incense-lit hay dragon visits each household, bringing blessings to the residents and fostering a spirit of community. Learn more about the craftsmanship that goes into the making of this dragon here.
4. The Khasi Community in Meghalaya
The Khasi people are the native group of Meghalaya and number about 1 million in India’s north-eastern state. A unique feature of this community is that they follow the matrilineal system of descent and inheritance, meaning the youngest daughter inherits, children take their mother’s surname and when no daughters are born to a couple, they adopt a daughter and pass their rights to property to her.
The traditional Khasi male dress is a jymphong, a longish sleeveless coat and the female dress is called the jainsem or dhara, both of which are made up of several pieces of cloth to create a cylindrical shape. You can hear inspiring stories from the Khasi community and how they have influenced the arts and culture of the region here.
5. The Ndebele people of South Africa
The Ndebele people are of the Bantu Tribe in South Africa and are known for their beadwork. Prior to the Second World War most Ndebele work had a white seed bead base with simple designs in blue, black and red. After the war, bolder designs to match their houses started to appear.
The geometric beaded designs of the Ndebele people are said to reflect their cultural identity, as well as play various social functions. Different types of beadwork have historically been worn by girls and women at different stages of their lives, communicating their status as children, unmarried adolescents or married women. Discover how integral Ndebele beadwork has been to South Africa here.
6. Palestine’s first all-female auto racing team
The Speed Sisters are an all-female, Palestinian automobile racing team that compete on the West Bank's professional car racing circuit. First formed in 2009, with support from the British Consulate in Jerusalem, the team decorate the car with both Palestinian and British flags.
Seriously competitive, the team has broken stereotypes in a male-dominated society. The team of six women represents the diversity of what Palestine has become with racers coming from fragmented corners of the West Bank. Learn more about the members of the Speed Sisters here.
7. The Dinka people from the banks of the Nile
The Dinka people are a community that live in the east and west banks of the River Nile in South Sudan. They are a domesticated community, mainly living on traditional agriculture and pastoralism. Cattle husbandry is source of cultural pride, but not for the commercial profit or for meat, but rather for cultural demonstrations, rituals, dowries and milk feeding for all ages it provides them.
Creative with a distinct sense of style, men and women wear beaded corsets and bodices to reveal their progression through life and availability for marriage. Photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher had the privilege of photographing the Dinka people during the 1970s and then again 30 years later, see more of their images and learn about their experiences here.
8. Brazil's indigenous people, the Juma
The Juma are an indigenous people of Brazil and the Juma indigenous land had 38,351 hectares, some of which was separated and sold off in 2004. The tribe is located on the banks of the Assuã River, more than 1,100 kilometers from Manaus, the capital of Amazonas. In the 18th century the Juma group had about 15,000 indigenous people – today there are only four left.
Historically the people were decimated by gold miners, rubber tappers and by all the diseases that arose after “contact with the white man”. In 1998, the Juma were taken from their original territory to the Alto Jamari tribe of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people. The only commonality was that they spoke the same language, which led to the Juma suffering cultural shock and feeling marginalized. The return to Juma territory only happened in 2013 but the river has remained a fundamental part of the daily life of the community. You can find out more about how the Juma use their environment and how they keep their culture alive here.