> Linda, I believe that your heart's in the right place and you probably do
> want to expose students to the art forms of a variety of cultures, but I
> wonder if others share my concerns about the recipe for making storyteller
> Have issues of cultural appropriation and ownership been addressed? Is it
> trivializing the art of the "other" to focus on technique and wish that
> students have a "happy modeling experience?"
> Having said this, and probably having made myself quite unpopular, I think
> that there are some ways to contextualize and rescue a cross-cultural art
> activity around the theme of "storytelling." Students could look at and
> discuss art that is used to tell stories across a variety of cultures
> e.g.(Wajang puppets from Indonesia, [in fact puppets from all cultures for
> that matter], quilts, Trajan's column, and Cochiti storyteller dolls) etc.
> etc. Certainly I think that students should make art to tell stories, but I
> have some concern about decontextualizing an art form which may not belong
> to us.
> What do you think?
> Graeme Chalmers
> Graduate Adviser
> Department of Curriculum Studies
> University of British Columbia
> Vancouver, B.C.
> Canada V6T 1Z4
> Tel: 604 822-4842
> Fax: 604 822-9366
OK, Graeme, I've been too busy to contribute much lately, but I
want to respond to your remarks and the content of "Celebrating
Pluralism." I, too, have severe reservations about copying the form of
any cultural object. I do think objects such as storytellers and
kachinas provide opportunities for significant aesthetic and
ethical discussions, but I feel we need to respect
the traditions and intentions of the original maker by moving
towards a deeper interpretation.
What we try to do with similar objects in our institute is to investigate
thoroughly the underlying theme and then have students create
an original work based on a contemporary interpretation of the theme.
This may be an extreme example, but I sometimes ask of teachers
who want to make kachinas (usually out of toilet paper rolls)
how they would feel if they went into a class making crucifixes?
I would think Hopi people feel much the same way when they see
their kachinas copied as an art project.
I don't mean to be blameful - teachers often are not exposed to
such ideas in their training - but hopefully we can all learn to
be more sensitive to issues of culture.
Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 5098, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
817/565-3986 FAX 817/565-4867