“Ther’s no such thing as a gift in a vacumm […] The whole cultural thing must be taken into account.”
Dr Michal Laver
There are different meanings attached to the gift-giving practice. For me, one of them is a sense of empathy, appreciation, or understanding of the other person. In this exercise we have to make a gift for a person we just met, in my case Jade. If it is often a challenge to make (or choose) a gift for a person you know very well, it is even more challenging to make one for a person you just met.
I started this prompt trying to define a strategy to generate a unique gift for Jade, a gift that was suited in her own “culture”. I had read that the act of gift-giving is always attached to a cultural aspect and that it can’t be separated from this aspect. But for me, understanding the culture of Jade was not about understanding a social connection between she and her social environment. It was more about how she interacts with her own daily life, that means her hobbies, activities, passions, and also the things she doesn’t like.
In order to do that I wrote a questionary to get some basic information. The kind of questions you usually ask when you meet someone: What you like to do, what are your hobbies, what are your passions, what color do you like, do you have some pets, etc… I thought this was going to be a good way to get known Jade a little more. I also thought it was a quick way because we only had 1 week to develop the project. Not enough time to get know someone very well, and even less to create a gift that was very specific for that person.
As many times happens the direction of the project took a different route for the expected. I was going to meet Jade and ask her the questions. We both agree to go to the Nemesis café outside the school and she told me she could answer all the questions there—I had already sent all the questions previously. When we were at the café and order some breakfast before class we just started talking like a very casual conversation, and after the two first questions we forgot about the questionary, this was actually a good thing since the conversation became more casual and also, I think, more relevant (specially for the gift), Also because she eventually sent me the quiestionary answered so I had even more information . After that meeting I had some information to work with. I took this information and use it as the guidelines to making the gift. One of the things that she told me, the way she had found a shelter in nature, became the inspiration of the project. I designed a postcard that was related with this story, a gift that was related to the moment we share getting know each other. The idea of two raccoons hanging was an interpretation of what she had experienced when she moves to Vancouver and particularly to Squamish, the felling she felt when she was surrounded by nature. The hug is also a very common gesture when you give and receive a gift in the Mexican culture.