Welcome to Postgraduate Design Research – an opportunity to profile a selection of current design postgraduate students and their projects across our tertiary institutions. This week, we speak with Diana Albarrán González from AUT.
Diana Albarrán González
Doctor of Philosophy in Design and Indigenous Art
Auckland University of Technology
Tell us about your research.
My research (which has transformed in OUR for its collaborative nature) is exploring the decolonization of Design research and practice. It focuses on Artisanal Design as a space where designers and Indigenous artisans collaborate for the creation of artisanal pieces in Latin America. This research is done in collaboration with Tsotsil and Tseltal weavers from the Highlands of Chiapas, South East Mexico, where artisanal textiles play an important role for Indigenous communities as part of their culture, everyday life and economy. There are many challenges when designers trained under hegemonic design discourses (Western-centric, consumption driven) approach communities with distinctive world views and ways of being and doing.
What drove you to this research area?
I was born and raised in Chiapas surrounded by traditional crafts from the region, especially textiles. Artisanal textiles are a strong part of our identity and culture where distinctive processes and patterns are linked to different communities. The way I see it, artisanal textiles are living things that evolve side by side with people, evident in the transformation of their designs. At the same time, some techniques and patterns are linked directly to Mayan knowledge before colonization. This duality between past and future is a topic of debate when internal or external intervention occur, a topic that is very interesting to me.
Based on your research at present are there any discoveries that you can share with us?
There have been many learnings but to mentions some, to understand the origin of design, at least in design education, as being Western-centric and disconnected from other realities; to realize that design has been present in many cultures in the world but with other names and the importance of recognizing and respecting these other ways of designing. Also, to be aware that textile creation is part of the “buen vivir” or Lekil Kuxlejal (well-being and good living) to these communities, something important to consider, as well as their “autonomía”. There are many public and private organizations in the region working with Indigenous artisans without being aware of these issues.
How has all of this impacted upon your own design practice?
Decolonisation goes beyond the research, is not something separated from us as researchers or practitioners. It also involves questioning and transforming our assumptions, minds, ways of knowing and being. This has reshaped the way I see myself and others, to search for new ways of respectful connection between beings, to pursuit collective and horizontal collaborations. Especially to be more heart-led, as one of the teachings from the women who have share their kindness and given me the opportunity to learn from them and their culture. As a wise native man told me: “they say we should rescue culture, but culture rescue us”.