A Multicultural Calendar Artifact

52 Weeks

Julie Mabey

Global Perspectives

April 15, 1993


Intro / Spades / Hearts / Clubs / Diamonds / Back of the deck / The Jokers / A tool for mathematics

This deck of cards is a calendar. Each card represents one of the 52 weeks in a year. Each suit in the deck represents the 4 seasonal divisions of a calendar. The Ace of Spades begins Spring on March 20, 1993. The seasons are a little more than 13 weeks, so the remaining three Aces start with the week, not the exact day, that the solstice or equinox occurs. This calendar ends on March 19th, 1994.

Calendars were created because human beings have a need to measure time. Time is often thought of as a line or as continually going forward. I like to think of a calendar as marking time in a circle or spiral that keeps returning to the same events and traditions that I choose to highlight each year. A calendar marks my habits and keeps track of my memories because it is comforting to me to anticipate recurring events each year. The calendar also marks unexpected events, cancellations, surprises and changes.

Solitaire is the name for a variety of card games in which a player shuffles the deck of cards, lays them down in a pattern and through a series of moves tries to put the cards back in order by number, ace to king, in each suit. This shuffled deck of cards mixes up the calendar and puts unexpected days and weeks next to each other. It reminds me that life is not always predictable. Sometimes it might be hot and sunny in February and cold in July. Sometimes I might see a friend, attend an event, or travel at a time of year that I might not have done before.

Although disruptions like these might be exciting, they are also a bit uncomfortable. Like a solitare player, I am determined to sort the calendar into its proper order. And like the solitaire player who is compelled to keep playing, I am also eager to challenge the calendar to another year every time.

This deck of cards is also a multicultural calendar. I have altered some of the symbols on the deck to reflect just a few of the groups of people that I see around me in New York City. The artwork I selected was created by people who worked in their own country and made it a point of their work to capture and broadcast elements of their own culture. I have chosen human figures to represent the four suits in the deck because physical appearance is one way people associate themselves with a culture. These artworks come from different periods of time and yet contain elements that are still found in each culture today.

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Suit: Spades

Season: Spring

Figure: Chinese Woman

In honor of 1993 being the year of the rooster for the Chinese calendar, I chose this drawing of a woman feeding chickens and roosters. It is from a series of peasant drawings made in the 1970ís to promote socialism and proletarian politics in China. The drawing comes from the Shensi province which is located near the Great Wall in north central China. The artists of these pictures were fellow peasant workers who drew in their spare time. I noticed that the tin bowl the woman is carrying is similar to those I have found in Chinatown.

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Suit: Hearts

Season: Summer

Figure: Indian Woman

This is a painting from the 19th century and comes from the Jaipur region of India which is south of New Delhi. The woman is holding a lotus flower which in this painting symbolizes purity. For me, the lotus represents one of the many fragrant herbs and spices I associate with Indian culture. I see Indian women dressed in similar beautiful cotton and silk saris everyday in New York City.

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Suit: Clubs

Season: Autumn

Figure: South African Man

This statue is of a businessman from Venda, an independent ethnic group which is located in the northeastern tip of South Africa. The statue was made in 1986 by a South African woman who I struggling to hang on to traditional art methods in her changing country. She is also trying to bring beauty to her ravaged community. The sculpture is made of clay from the river banks and fired in a traditional straw oven.

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Suit: Diamonds

Season: Winter

Figure: Jewish Man

This is a watercolor from one of my favorite painters, Marc Chagall. It was painted in the 1920ís when Chagall was in the process of struggling to leave his home near St. Petersburg for Europe. Chagall was a Russian Jew who celebrated his religious and geographical heritage even long after he escaped from his oppressive country. The manís clothing is a reminder that the dress of the Orthodox Jews has remained the same for several decades.

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The back of the deck

For the backside of the cards, I chose a picture of the Aztec calendar stone as a tribute to both the circular motion of time that a calendar suggests to me and to our Mexican neighbors to the south. The Aztecs thrived for thousands of years and developed a 365 day calendar divided into 18 months of 20 days each plus 5 extra days. The calendar works for 52 years before the seasons no longer match. The 20 ton stone, probably from before the 1500ís, stands for time and the cosmos. Two of the many symbols represented are the sun, which is the face in the center and the 20 rectangles around that which are the names of the days of the month.

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The Jokers

Since our calendar is influenced by the sun, the movement of the earth around the sun and the movement of the moon around the earth, I have chosen symbols for the sun and moon to be the jokers in the deck. These jokers pay tribute to two of the many groups of people who are native to North America. The red sun mask is from a Northwest Coast Indian tribe. The moon shield is from a Plains Indian tribe, possibly Apache. According to legend, the Apache chief Cochise had a moon painted on his shield.

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A tool for mathematics

A deck of cards is one of the best tools I know for teaching and practicing math. Addition and subtraction are required not only for card games, but for keeping score and deciding whether or not to raise the ante!

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This multicultural calendar artifact was designed by Julie Mabey during the course Global Perspectives, in the Master of Science in Teaching program at Pace University in 1993, taught by Dr. Kathryn De Lawter. It is one of the representations studied in research conducted by Dr. Kathryn De Lawter and Dr. Adrienne "Andi" Sosin.