Meaning, use and traditions can influence each other and change over time. Ancient symbols, forms and techniques can obtain new meaning and express contemporary issues.

Cultural knowledge and personal life experiences are important sources of creativity – but they are not the only ones. Inspiration can come from a number of disparate sources. Borrowing and cross-fertilization is a part of a globalized world, but is often unfortunately played out on an uneven term.

Many indigenous groups are struggling to promote and protect traditional cultural expressions and techniques from misappropriation by third parties. The international policy debate on the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples has advanced from the question of whether the knowledge should be protected to a consideration of how to protect it.


For many years, the Amazon region has been threatened by deforestation, cattle farming and the oil industry. These developments are not only a threat to the forest, but also to the territory of indigenous peoples. Activists often deliberately wear their feather headdresses and other traditional ornaments when campaigning in order to emphasise their identity as the original inhabitants and protectors of the forest. Many also use modern technology like film and the internet in their campaigning, attracting worldwide attention to their cause.


Contact between cultures often leads to the introduction of new ideas, materials and techniques. For example, indigenous peoples started to make new crafts using beads and fabrics from Europe, while Westerners were impressed by the finery and materials worn by the indigenous people. This kind of mutual inspiration continues to this day, and influences the work of contemporary fashion designers.