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Lesson Plans

Re: CELEBRATING PLURALISM and appropriation.

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Becky Alexander (Bekalex)
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 12:00:46 -0700

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To rewrite my statement with emphasis added:


>>**Most** of the world today **seems** to share a common culture.
>>Industry, >commercialization and communication technologies **are
>>minimizing** true >cultural differences as we have understood them (I
>>did not say they are >obsolete!) >>

I did not say (or even imply) what I thought of this. I only stated that
much of the world seems to be becoming more and more homogenous. We are
indeed losing indigenous peoples. There have been/are blatant atrocities
committed (as usual in the history of the world.)

My own opinion is that I think that it's very sad to be losing so many of
the indigenous peoples to the "commonality" of industry, commercialization
and communication. On the other hand, if they want to join the world isn't
that their choice? If their leaders, on visiting the industrialized world
find that they can have certain amenities and desire them, what do we do?

In some cases the people/leaders themselves have invited "us" in. (In New
Zealand to establish a more moral living situation - they were killing each
other over pigs, he wanted his people to learn and use some kind of moral
code - in other areas for the bucks and easier living that western society
seems to offer.)

In many cases, these people want nothing we have, also, of course to be
respected (protected?). (Although, it looks like we want what they
have...trees, metals, medicines? artwork?) *I understand that "we" can
destroy them, while they will not make much impact on "us".*

In some cases we have seen atrocities being committed and felt it incumbent
upon ourselves to intervene. Is to ignore it, to condone it? The line here
is so difficult.

My opinions on this are pretty "middle of the road." I hate to lose the
best those cultures have to offer and teach us. ***We have
forgotten/discarded/lost too much of our own original base and that may be
why we hunger for theirs.*** It may also be why we find it so difficult to
watch them lose theirs. Or are we feeling guilty, perhaps, for what we
perceive as the injustices committed by our forefathers? I honestly don't
know. Perhaps a combination.

On the other hand I hate to see the physical atrocities perpetuated by our
seeming apathy, or our inability to come up with a satisfactory response.

I don't know where or what the line is. The answer I use is in valuing the
beauty and the artistic process *where ever* I find it (and I have to do
this by my own standards -which may take courage - or how else?). The US
(like virtually all other cultures) has had atrocities in its own past.
This does not invalidate the artwork (in my opinion). If we negate the art
of the perpetrators, it gives less courage to the art of the oppressed.
(just a thought for discussion, **not for flames,** I haven't thought it
out well enough.) :) Just because Germany had Nazis doesn't mean it did
not also have artists...and then we have Beckmann. Or Picasso. Or Catlin.
Or Rivera.

I don't want to merely wrestle with a philosophical problem. I'm really
more concerned with finding an answer that I can live by as I teach. I am
an Anglo teacher with 26 Mexican, 2 Lao, 1 Hmong, 1 Native American
(non-Hopi) and 2 Anglo students (about 25% are mixed heritage). What do I
teach culturally? How do I approach it? What do they emulate? Can I
(Norwegian/Finnish-American) deal with Dia del Morte?, Native American,
French, Asian, ????? HOW???

None of these is a primitive culture today, yet they all have history. They
all have religious motifs in much of their artwork. (It's all spiritual in

The only solution I have found, to date, is to try for a good mix, treat it
*all* with respect, emphasize the similarities, include some differences,
use what is usable as appropriate (tee-pees with symbols on them, Aztec
suns, Diego Rivera type murals, Asian costumes and handiwork, French
Impressionists) and concentrate on developing the skills and personal
expression of my students.

(But...I'm going to find a TV set in every picture I ask them to do of
their living room. [Horace Pippin])


>> From: EVasso
>> Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 19:25:47 -0500 (EST)
>> To: artsednet
>> Subject: Re: CELEBRATING PLURALISM and appropriation.
>> In a message dated 97-02-11 00:18:41 EST, Bekalex (Becky
>> Alexander) writes:
>> << Most of the world
>> today seems to share a common culture. Industry, commercialization and
>> communication technologies are minimizing true cultural differences as we
>> have understood them (I did not say they are obsolete!) >>
>> Becky,
>> I do not believe that this statement is true.,
>> To "share" something implies a sense of equality...some good for you...some
>> good for me. As long as there are inequalities among nations, peoples and
>> culture, then sharing becomes problematic. Where are the museums in Africa
>> that display the stolen artifacts of Europe and North America? Exactly what
>> Arab explorer looted the buriel tombs of France, Germany or England?
>> In spite of this (maybe because of this) indigenous peoples hold on to their
>> cultures and traditions. All cultures have not become the same. Exactly
>> what and where is this common world culture? While all human beings share
>> some cultural attributes, differences persist. Cultures are unique...and
>> they have a context. That is the point that has been made here. How do we
>> teach and learn about other cultures in context, a context that is not white
>> and eurocentric?
>> While it is certainly true that European artists such as Picasso and
>> Kandinsky "appropriated" African forms, they did just that: lifted the
>> aspects of the work and ignored the cultural context.
>> For art teachers to treat this as something other than a problem to be
>> wrestled with, to treat it as something other than a dilemma, is, itself,
>> cause for concern.
>> -Fred
>I do think that there is a "common" popular culture that
>endangers the unique qualities of differing cultures. This
>popular culture, spread primarily through television, movies,
>popular music, and fast food restaurants, seems to provide
>the lowest common denominator. I don't often find this addressed
>in discussions on culture. What do you think?
>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

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