-->In my post of 17th August I referred to a fine piece of undercover detective work carried out by Karl Amman. It is titled Hanoi Connection, The Rhino Horn Mafia. In this 26 minute video he shows how the rhino horn trade has exploded and gone mainstream in Hanoi. So much so that there are large quantities of false horn now available on the market as demand has grown.
I had thought that this was driven by the TCM market, with the added extra component of an alleged used for dealing with hangovers and so-called rhino horn parties at which the stuff is ground on specially designed plates, suspended in fluid and drunk.
Of course this moves the use of the horn into the conspicuous consumption field, and Karl has very recently taken his investigation a lot further.
Rhino horn is now used as bling.
His full story is up on his website and will also appear in the East Africna Wildlife Society's flagship magazine Swara. For lovers of wildlife stories, and an edgy apporoach to today's issues, you could not do better than subscribe. Here are a couple of Karl's pictures from the bling story.
A horn shop in Hanoi at left and a
transaction underway at right
I decided to find out a bit more about bling and of course the first place to look was on Google. I knew it is a word that has only come into the lexicon in recent times. I had not realized how recent. One source states that it is of Jamaican origin and was first used by the Silvertones in their December 2002 song Bling Bling Christmas.
It is such a good word that it is now in common use throughout the English-speaking world. Various definitions are offered. A simple one is Flash and sparkle; glamour. Another puts it this way: The word "bling" refers to any unnecessary accumulation of metal or jewellery which impresses the simple-minded.
I fell to thinking about bling in a wider context. Of course there are plenty of recent references to things like fancy engagement rings and so on, but the truth is that humans were using bling long before it became a word.
Witness the widespread used of animal parts by people all over the world for who knows how long.
Joy Adamson’s fascinating 1967 book The Peoples of Kenya has dozens of her photos and paintings showing tribesmen dressed in an extraordinary array of skins, feathers, bones and horns. Many of the original works have been shown in Nairobi’s National Museum, once known as the Coryndon Museum.
Ostrich feathers were not only worn by Kenyan and other African warriors. They became a fashion statement for western women and ostrich famers of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries profited mightily. Then came the motorcar. Most cars were open to the elements and the industry took a hit.
In my copy of the 1982 The Elk of North America is a picture of a beautiful young girl of the Dakota Sioux Nation nation who is wearing a ceremonial dress covered in approximately 1700 canine teeth (aka bugle teeth) of a wapiti.
Some of the tribesmen of Papua New Guinea are famous for wearing all sorts of bling. Perhaps the most well-known are the bones through their nasal septa and the Koteka or penis sheath worn by many, mainly highland, tribes.
|"Wanda in wild feathers." A photo from the early 1900s|
Almost 95% of the species were wiped out and the feathers for the hats had to be obtained during the nesting season.
The movie’s narrator recounts how a naturalist, going for a stroll in New York, saw 542 feathered hats with material from 40 different species.
Numerous attempts were made to halt the slaughter and an Audubon Society campaign failed. Only when a government congressman named John F Lacey got something done did things improve!
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Is the use of rhino horn bracelet worn opposite a $15,000 Rolex watch (and costing about as much) just the latest manifestation of an ancient human trait?