What’s my tribe?

Today’s Sunday Scribblings topic is ‘tribe’.  I’ve never joined Sunday Scribblings before (Sunday is not a big blogging day for me) but it reminded me of something I saw at Manchester Art Gallery.

They have a few Grayson Perry pieces and one of them is an etching of a tremendously detailed landscape with different ‘tribes’ placed on it – it’s like a mediaeval tapestry or something with siege engines and people with spears and so on.  It’s called ‘Print for a Politician’ and I found it quite fascinating in its detail.  The ‘tribes’ are a giant range of sub-groups of society: socialists, goths, minimalists, different classes, different religions…   But they’re not drawn as looking different.  They all look interchangeable.   Grayson Perry says in the article I linked,  “I wanted people to look at it and feel that they associated themselves with at least some of the people and think ‘in the end, we are all just as bad as each other'”

There’s a  nice exhibition set up in the same room where they got 11-15 year olds to choose items from the museum collection that reflect the themes used by Grayson Perry in his work – a really interesting exercise.

Then in an adjacent room, there is a local landscape line-drawing on which you can stick a post-it to represent your own ‘tribe’.  So I had to ask myself a question: which tribe will I pick?  (I suppose I could have carpet-bombed the picture with all my tribes but it seemed not to be in the spirit of the thing.)  Scots, feminists, knitters, bloggers, engineers, geeks, readers, thirty-somethings?  In the end, I decided that since I’d just been at a conference where I’d introduced myself many, many times as a physicist, I’d go with physicists.  Definitely one of my strongest affiliations.

Here is my physicist post-it, placed in Saddleworth along with yellow-bellies/Bostonians and hipsters (certainly neither of those is my tribe!)
physicists post-it
And here’s a bigger view:
tribe landscape
It’s interesting to think about what all your tribes are. When I was younger, I tended to have multiple non-intersecting sets of friends.  Each set would be quite bemused as to what I saw in the others.  But it was a way of being a range of different people.  I hope that now I’ve managed to integrate my personalities together a bit more and not be so much a different person with different groups.  Adding all these tribes together just makes for a richer mixture. I really wish I’d made a note of all the tribes on the post-its: I’m sure there are groups of people I’d never even thought of (I just found out that people from Lincolnshire are called yellow-bellies, for a start!)

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3 Responses to What’s my tribe?

  1. julietwilson says:

    Sounds like a really interesting exhibition, when is it on til? The whole idea of tribes is fascinating, there are certainly a few that I would see some common ground with, not sure how many i would see myself as being fully a part of.


  2. I should have linked the exhibition, it’s on till 12th Feb apparently so not much longer!
    I came across the art gallery completely by accident – I don’t know Manchester and I was walking from the conference centre to the train station with some time to kill before my train and just happened to bump into the gallery.

    That’s an interesting point about having common ground but not being part of – I can certainly think of some tribes like that. Another point that Grayson Perry made in the interview was that we all have sub-personalities and sometimes we don’t like them very much. So it’s not just about identifying other people’s tribes, it’s about addressing our internal contradictions.

  3. Pingback: What’s My Tribe? | altdotlife: Build your own village

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