Farming and ranching are not only big business in Nebraska. They are also longstanding ways of life that have contributed many arts, crafts, and other cultural traditions to our state. The photo is of the calf roping completion at “Nebraska’s Big Rodeo” in Burwell, NE. Horsehair hitching, rawhide braiding, cowboy poetry and song,barn and ranch dances, saddlemaking, cornhusk doll making, canning, water witching, and wood carving are only a few of Nebraska’s rural traditions.

The photo is of artist Said Rauf’s hand as he cuts Arabic script from a sheet of silver plastic. He also commonly uses discarded CDs and other materials for his striking works, which are framed designs made with script in Arabic, Farsi, and other languages. In his art, Mr. Rauf is following age old Islamic traditions of using script for intricate designs. These techniques are most commonly used on paper, in fabric, and in building decoration. Mr. Rauf’s works primarily use quotations from the Qur’an and from traditional stories. He is a Kurdish Iraqi who fled his homeland in 1996 because of the Kurdish persecution ordered by former ruler Saddam Hussein. He and his family have lived in Lincoln for over a decade. His works have been exhibited at the Unitarian Church and other venues in Lincoln. Examples of his art can be seen in the NFN’s Iraqi trunk.

Nebraska’s Native American tribes have contributed the oldest of our many folklife practices. For hundreds of years, they’ve excelled at traditional singing and dancing, leatherwork, drum making, constructing traditional dwellings such as earth lodges, and much more. Contemporary Native American beadwork, such as that shown in the photo, is a modern adaptation of a clothing decoration tradition that stretches back to prehistoric times. Over the years, the common materials have changed from shells, bone and dyed porcupine quills to beads, but many of the colors, designs, and other aspects of the different tribal, clan, and family styles have continued over centuries. Folk arts are often said to be “new and old at the same time” because of this typical combination of innovation with tradition.

The photo shows a detail from a Mexican embroidery design depicting the Aztec legend of the founding of Mexico City, then called Tenochtitlan. This image of an eagle devouring a snake while sitting on a prickly pear cactus is on the Coat of Arms of Mexico and also on the national flag. According to the legend, the Aztec sun god Huitzilopochtli told his people to look for the eagle as a sign where to construct their greatest city. Both newer and older groups of Latin American immigrants have contributed much to Nebraska’s folklife with their colorful dances, music, costumes, holiday celebrations and other traditions. To see the shirt from which this detail is taken, please visit the trunks page!

The Vietnamese American population in Lincoln is the largest in the state and the community holds a well-attended annual celebration of Tết, the Vietnamese version of the Asian lunar New Year festival. The photo depicts a young boy, (perhaps a future dancer), examining the head of the costume worn by the Lincoln Lion Dancers when they perform. The photo was taken at the 2005 Tết Celebration at the Malone Community Center, Lincoln Nebraska.

The image is an example of Hmong paj ntaub (pronounced “pan dau”), which means “flower cloth” in English. Yer Xiong Lo, who lived in Omaha in 1991 when she sewed this decorative pillow cover, used both regular and reverse appliqué in the same piece. Those are two of the many techniques the Hmong commonly employ to create paj ntaub. The simplest type of reverse appliqué can be made with just two layers of cloth in different colors. One layer is folded and cut into intricate, symmetrical designs (similar to cutting paper snowflakes). Then it is laid on top of the other cloth and the edges are turned under and sewn to the bottom layer. This allows the bottom color to show through. Traditionally used to decorate clothing such as jackets, headdresses, skirts and baby carriers, these crafts served to identify the person’s specific ethnic group in the Hmong homeland. The photo shows the most well-known technique is the reverse appliqué with intricate, symmetrical designs cut from folded pieces of cloth (similar to snowflakes made from paper) and sewn onto a background fabric.

Nebraska has a wealth of communities settled by ethnic groups who came to the U.S. during the great wave of immigration that took place in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries. One of those is Oakland Nebraska, which along with Stromsburg Gothenburg, Holdrege, Wausau and others, was established by Swedish immigrants. Folklorist Gwen Meister of the Nebraska Folklife Network interviewed Grace Johnson Schrock of Oakland about her Swedish heritage and her folk art for the NFN educational trunk on Swedish Nebraskans. For more than fifty years Mrs. Schrock made her living as both traditional artist and commercial sign painter in her hometown of Oakland. The photo is the head of a small, hand-made wooden horse painted by Mrs. Schrock.
Horses of this type are called Dala horses because they were originally made only in the Swedish province of Dalarna. Over the years the Dala horse has become a symbol of cultural heritage for all Swedish Americans. Examples of Mrs. Schrock’s art can be seen in the colorful signs on buildings on Oakland’s main street and in the NFN’s Swedish trunk.

The artist who developed our organizational logo and branding is Mike Semrad, of Red Rebel Media.