Culture. What exactly is it? What does it mean to say ‘our culture’ or ‘our cultural identity’? Can we in North America claim something such as ‘cultural identity’ since we are such mixed bag of race and cultures? What exactly defines a country’s cultural identity?
In attending the first day of the Conquest Cup in Istanbul and meeting many traditional and modern archers from various countries I came to realize something: whether people know it or not, archery is present in almost every cultural identity out there, Australia notwithstanding.
The Spice Road, the roads of Rome, the sea routes of the Phoenicians; all these trade routes advanced both knowledge and culture. I’m sure when the Chinese ended up in Constantinople on the search for better horses they must have been overwhelmed with the City and the same can be said for the Westerners travelling the opposite way in a quest for jade, ceramics, and other unique items. Walking through the Grand Bazaar, I found myself often wondering if any Mongolians came through here. We certainly know that the Norse were in Constantinople due to some naughty Viking leaving runic graffiti in the majestic Hagia Sophia, as well the recent archeological find in Norway of Islamic coins found in a shield boss dating from 950AD. In my mind I imagine the Chinese, Mongolian, Moor, Roman, and Norseman meeting, trading, and exchanging items, philosophy and knowledge through hand signs, halting language, and tea.
Culture is something to be proud of, but can sometimes be to the detriment of others. One only has to look at WWII to see that. But culture is also something that is an identity and often finding one’s cultural identity can lead to discovering something about themselves they may not have known.
After meeting so many researchers, historians, academics, and archers in Istanbul, something became clear: we may all come from different cultures and have different philosophies or religions but we do all share one thing: the love of archery, the pursuit of expanding our skill in the art, and it is these reasons that I continue my pursuit of all things archery.