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Lesson Plans


Re: CELEBRATING PLURALISM & Storyteller doll DIRECTIONS

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carla harwitt (charwitt.us)
Wed, 5 Feb 1997 19:25:14 -0800 (PST)

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To all - I get the feeling I'm about to espouse an unpopular position,
but I was extremely bothered by the idea that trying to copy techniques,
icons, artwork, etc. from other cultures is somehow disrespectful to that
culture if you are not of that culture. Lack of communication is, in my
opinion, the cause of most of the strife in the world (the Yiddish word
"tsuris" is actually what came to mind). I teach my students that the more
senses you use in learning something, the more you "make it your own" -
understanding it in a visceral way.

Kachina dolls out of toilet paper
rolls can be respectiful if you make it clear that the rolls are merely a
form of cardboard construction material. You can also make torahs (Jewish
word for Old Testament in sacred, scrolled form) out of those same kind of
rolls. Crucifixes? Sure, to study Christianity or the Middle Ages or
Byzantine icons or religious expression in general. In fact, I majored in
medieval studies in college because I couldn't understand why St.
Patrick's Cathedral in NYC was full of gruesome statues of tortured dead
people (as it then seemed to me). It was only after studying the evolution
of Catholicism that I came to understand the symbolism represented by
those images.

If we start to require inherited qualifications before we can try other
art forms, the more we run the risk of putting up inpenetrable walls
between people. The more we become intimately involved with other
cultures, religions, beliefs, etc., the more we are communicating with
each other, and the better place this world will be.

Sorry for the harangue! I got kind of heated up - I only mean to express
my own personal opinion here and I'll get off my soapbox now. I'm sure
others will differ with me, and that's great (up the first amendment).

--Carla in LA

On Wed, 5 Feb 1997, Nancy Walkup wrote:

> > Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 10:37:18 -0800 (PST)
> > To: DEvans2343, ARTSEDNET
> > From: gfchalm (Graeme Chalmers)
> > Subject: Re: CELEBRATING PLURALISM & Storyteller doll DIRECTIONS
> > Cc: NSanit, dyorke, ama
>
> > 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
> > dolls?
> >
> > 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
> >
> > 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
>
>
>
> 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
> Walkup
>


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