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Re: Multicultural art reply + Multicultural Mathematics

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
John Bibby, QED of York, York, England (qed)
Sun, 13 Jul 1997 22:22:28 +0000


I found the following discussion very illuminating, as it threw light
on a concern I have felt for some time that well-meaning mathematics
teachers who insert a "dash" of multiculturalism (or history, because
"the past is another country") risk trivialising the whole issue. By
"trivialising" I mean that they place focus upon INESSENTIAL
aspects of what they describe.

Recently mathematicians have tried to get away from this by
advocating "Mathematics THROUGH History" (a bibliography by John
Fauvel), rather than "history of mathematics". Similarly "Art THROUGH
Multiculturalism" would teach the ESSENCE of art using the richness
and diversity of multiculural ideas.

One ethnocentric comment from the UK: multicultrual writings from the
USA seem to us to have an awful lot of Navajo and Northern Indian
culture, surprisingly little from Central America, and virtually
nothing from the Indian subcontinent. French writings have lots on
North Africa and Vietnam. British writings are no doubt full of OUR
ex-colonies. Thus multicultural writings are THEMSELVES cultural
products of imperialism (stand up Lenin!)

On 11 Jul 97 at 8:31, Kathrine Walker wrote:

> The article is in reference to an excellent book by Graeme Chalmers
> - you should read the whole book to really understand the issues -
> it is called CELEBRATING PLURALISM and is available from the Getty.
>
> The idea of not just copying another culture's art is really quite
> important - I just held a teacher's workshop at the museum on this
> topic in conjunction with an exhibition of Native American Art from
> the Santa Fe Indian Studio School.
>
> One point speaker made is - children copying Kachinas which are
> not part of their culture would be like someone drawing Christ on
> the cross without understanding what they are doing. Cultural
> objects are often laden with meaning and are sacred to a particular
> group. They are not just designs or patterns.
>
> Looking at and UNDERSTANDING (why was it made, where was it made,
> how was it used, who used it) the objects of another culture is an
> important part of multi-cultural art education. Recreating or
> copying these objects is a different matter.
>
> The suggestions had been made for the children to draw parallels to
> their own lives. For example, if you were looking at storyteller
> "dolls", who tells the stories in this particular child's life.
> Chances are it is not an Indian grandmother!
>
> When we worked with the paintings from the Studio School - we wanted
> the children to understand what the students were doing. The
> subject matter was required to be of the Indian students
> culture/daily life. It was not appropriate for our student to copy
> pictures of Kachina dancers. On the other hand, they could do
> paintings of daily events or special ceremonies in THEIR own lives.
>
> In most cases, with some careful thought, a teacher can help
> students understand cultural objects and create new/original
> objects that reflect the cultural objects usage within our societal
> context.
>
> Sorry for the longish post.
>
> Kathrine Walker
> Education Coordinator
> Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University
>
"Alice in Escherland": a proposed conference and celebration of Lewis Carroll and MC Escher:
see the Times Educational Supplement (23/5/97, p. VI)

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John Bibby
QED of York qed
1 Straylands Grove
York YO3 0EB, England Tel/Fax: +44-1904-424381

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