Known for his intricate glass machines and other seemingly-impossible glass sculptures, Bandhu Dunham has practiced the art of lamp working for over 40 years. He is an internationally respected glass artist, author, and teacher. His works can be found in the permanent collections of numerous museums in the US and abroad, and his Contemporary Lampworking books are the authoritative, standard instructional texts in the field. It’s no wonder that we were thrilled to pick up one of his new creations and meet with him at the Big Industry Show in Denver earlier this year.
Bandhu started using his torch mastery to create functional smoking apparatuses just 5 years ago, long after having established himself as an international glass guru and accomplished artist. We had the opportunity to interview him and learn about the inspiration behind the newest addition to our collection: a bicycle-shaped mixed-media piece titled “Chthonic Cargo Cult Xorplex Module #1”. It is the first of his cargo cult bicycle series. The bike can function as a concentrate rig, but this feature is hardly noticeable amongst all of the beads, shells, biwa pearls, bones, and other ornaments attached to the piece. These trinkets and baubles were collected by Bandhu himself during his travels around the world.
In the interview, Bandhu comments on drawing inspiration from ritualistic art pieces and paraphernalia that he saw in Africa. He was intrigued by the nature of these symbolic objects, often made with ‘found items’ and layered with beads and stones.
In another conversation with folks from The Cupboard (not featured in the video interview), he elaborated on the ‘cargo cult’ phenomenon which appears in the title and lent inspiration to the pipe. But what is a ‘cargo cult’ anyway?
The term ‘cargo cult’ encompasses a diverse range of practices occurring in the wake of contact made by indigenous peoples with the commercial networks of colonizing societies. The name derives from the belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth (“cargo”).
The most well-known cargo cult phenomenon occurred during and after World War II on a group of south Pacific islands called the Vanuatu Islands. The natives living on these islands were more or less isolated from modern society and technology. With the war intensifying in the Pacific region, the population of tribal islanders observed, often right in front of their dwellings, the largest war ever fought by technologically advanced nations. Temporary bases were set up on the islands. The vast amounts of military equipment and supplies that were airdropped to the troops meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons and other goods arrived in vast quantities for the soldiers, who often shared some of it with the islanders who were their guides and hosts.
The natives quickly learned to revere these men, who seemed like gods to them. But when the war ended, the soldiers left and all of the supplies stopped dropping from the sky. Somewhere along the way the islanders began to believe that the men only visited the islands to steal the supplies, dropped by “sky gods”, which were meant for the islanders in the first place.
They believe that they needed to imitate the practices they had seen the soldiers performing to make the sky gods come back and bring them more great fortune. Thus, they tried to recreate many of these otherworldly items, carving goggles out of wood and fabricating control towers and airplanes made of bamboo. They waved landing signals while standing on the old abandoned runways, but the “sky gods” never returned.
There are still natives who uphold these beliefs and customs today, predominately on the island Tanna.
Looking at this piece, you can really see and feel the inspiration drawn from the customs and rituals of indigenous peoples from the Pacific islands and Africa and other areas. We are honored to house and display this one-of-a-kind work at The Cupboard in Cincinnati. Watch the full interview with Bandhu Dunham below, and feel free to check out more photos of “Chthonic Cargo Cult Xorplex Module #1” at our online gallery store, CupboardGlassPipes.com.
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