Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Handy dandy African artifacts

After visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art's newly reopened galleries I came away infatuated with an African belt. I was there to gather information and ideas for a story running in Sunday's Community section about how the items on display have been in storage or loaned to other museums for the past five years while the galleries were being prepared for their return. Most of what I saw is truly ancient -- some things dating back 5,000 years. A gorgeous Apollo statue, which you can see in my video on the paper's website, was first written about in the 1st century by Pliny the Elder. I think he's the same one who chronicled the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii.
The African belt, however, is much more recent, dating to maybe 100 years ago. Some believe it is still being used by tribes in the Congo.

I can see why.

It's beaded and beautiful in its handcrafting mostly with beads. Cowrie shells cover one of the pouches and others are beaded in gorgeous shades of blue.. my favorite color. I even saw a scallop shell on the belt - perhaps used to dip water for drinking. Scallop shells have also been worn for 1,000 years by pilgrims walking the Way of St. James across the south of France to Santiago de Compestela in Spain where St. James is supposed to be buried. You can read about that in the Aug 15 travel section which we are putting together now.

I was impressed with the belt for its looks, of course, but I couldn't help but think how handy it would be to carry my stuff - always a dilemma when I need to find a place for my cell phone, my money and credit cards, my notebook and pen and more recently, my flipcam.

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