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Re: [teacherartexchange] Respecting diverse cultures in the art curriculum


From: Judy Decker (judy.decker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Mar 11 2006 - 06:41:19 PST

Hi Kevan (and all),

Yes - we have talked about this at length...... I am waiting to hear
back from you which culture you are referring to. I dealt with this
issue with a Lakota. From that moment on - I dealt with Lakota lessons
in a different way. I did not teach about their art - only about their
heroes. I did not have animal hides, beads, or the right kind of
journal paper to teach their art. Native Americans DO want us and NEED
us to teach about their art and admire and respect it.... If not in
art class, where would they learn respect for the Native Americans? In
history classes they do not get the true stories. - you and I both
know that. I could give you a list of books to read with the true

It is important to teach the ways all cultures connect. What beliefs
and values are the same? Ceramics is one way to connect many cultures.
I used cultures that made pottery so I could use authentic materials.

If you must make a Kachina - DON'T call it a kachina and don't show
students examples first... Make spirit figures to show their own
beliefs and values (like protect the environment - lessons that need
to be learned - etc). THEN after the art making show the Hopi Kachinas
and explain their purpose as teaching tools for the children.

Teach what totems are about - We made ours about Family. I don't think
and Northwest Indian Culture would have been offended by my
lesson..... When we made our dance helmets, they were about personal
animal symbolism/identity.... Again, no Northwest culture would have
been offended.

Right now, Sax has a kit to make Kachinas.... I would hope that all
art teachers write to Sax and tell them they think the kit is
inappropriate. They also have a kit to make Totem poles.... again they
way it is presented is inappropriate. I am no longer teaching, so of
course, would have no need for such a project.... The letters will
mean more coming from YOU who are in the classroom.

On the flip side. I don't think it is fair for these diverse cultures
to only learn about art of dead white guys from Europe. I firmly
believe in MULTICULTURAL Art Education. We must teach about art from
all cultures.... No.... one does not make an "African mask" or a
"Native American Mask" - One makes a mask to represent their OWN
culture. The mask may have characteristics of African masks - but it
will have personal meaning as well. Where would modern art be today
had it not been for African Art? Also show how contemporary cultures
are moving away from the traditional art - blending the old with new
expressions. I showed some very modern totems to my students.

Art class is the one class where students CAN and should learn respect
for all cultures.

Kevan, I will talk more about the example you gave off list.... as I
am not offended by it. Shame on you Kevan for not listening when I
brought this up before (grin).


Judy Decker

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