How do you capture the entire character of a culture that has no written record, has lived for centuries in relative isolation and exists in complete harmony with one of the world’s most extreme environments?
Experienced real estate agents know that every culture has its own odor that reminds us of home.
In America, home sellers are told to stew apples before potential buyers arrive; in Italy, braising onions has the same effect. These are the scents that take us back to our childhood and help create our sense of comfort, safety and belonging. They are some of the most basic aspects of cultural identity.
In trying to understand any ethnicity, our olfactory senses have great importance…and yet they are invariably ignored by the tools used to represent culture: photos, video, recording, text and art. As foreign entrants, how can we identify and capture this most essential genome in the cultural DNA?
“When a child is born, the father goes into the desert in search of the largest scorpion he can find. The eldest woman slowly cooks the animal in a pan over an open fire until it melts like butter. This salve is massaged into the skin of the baby. The baby gets sick as a consequence of the scorpion venom but not enough to do it harm. I was bitten by a scorpion a few years ago and nothing happened. This is one of the traditional medicines of our people that is being lost.” Attayak