Belgian shrimping and a quinceañera

Following the logic of spending all your money on decent matresses, sheets, socks, and underwear (as the things you spend most of your time with), this past week, I took the seamful break of an OS update to re-wallpaper my phone with a couple of memento mori for 2017.

On the left, Mexican teenager Rubi Ibarra (photo by AFP’s Ronaldo Schemidt), whose quinceañera celebrations ‘gained national and international notoriety … after a local event photographer posted on his Facebook page a video of the girl’s father describing a down-home birthday party complete with food, local bands and horse races,’ going on to say “everybody is cordially invited.” ‘Internet users published mocked-up photos of troops of turkeys, backhoes stirring giant caldrons of soup and massive crowds “heading for Rubi’s party.”’

On the right, a Belgian horseback shrimp fisherman, one member of twelve households in Oostduinkerke engaged in this practice, recently recognised on a UNESCO list of global ‘intangible cultural heritage.’ ‘The shrimp fishers function on principles of shared cultural values and mutual dependence. Experienced shrimpers demonstrate techniques and share their knowledge of nets, tides and currents with beginners.’

As archetypes or foci for contemplation, there’s something here about the roles we assume (or have thrust upon us) as active participants in a world in flux. Yes, your fifteenth birthday may suddenly go viral, escaping your control. Yes, the small-scale folkway shared by you and your handful of neighbours may need to be reframed as an institutionally-supported side-hustle in order to endure.

In both of these cases, the local and the particular collide with the enormous ripetides of global structures and flows; but, with a clear-sighted appraisal of what can be allowed to flex and, conversely, those elements which are integral, which need to hold firm, the individuals and communities involved can emerge with grace, more-or-less intact.

There’s also a whiff of something about rythmns and time: the liminalities of a rite of passage, the rise and fall of the tides. (More on that later, perhaps.)

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