I think it’s a truly amazing experience to learn about one another’s culture, from the history of icons in the Orthodox church to the Sari and Salwar Kameez worn as the traditional dress in India. This lecture was about transnational histories, transnational meaning ‘operating across national boundaries’, and cultural appropriation. I learnt something new in that Picasso, who’s legacy lies in part with being the main creator of Cubism, didn’t just come up with Cubism himself but infact took the main body of his inspiration from African Art. As artist Christopher Huntchinson, Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga, states in his blog “The Museum placement of Cubism as modern and Africa in the basement is unacceptable. All modern art derives from Africa.” I think that wherever your inspiration comes from, you should credit that place/person/body for allowing you to produce your work.
Currently in the U.K., whilst I think we are living in a time and place where ethnic diversity is certainly increasing, it is also an incredibly tense time all over the whole world – from the unease and uncertain stability the Brexit campaign has brought the U.K, to the atrocities happening in Syria to the U.S. with immoral, unfair, racist treatment and shooting to black people. With all of this going on, I think there is a lot of emphasis placed on cultural appropriation today, moreso than I have witnessed before.
I have deliberately waited a week or so before writing this blog, in order to compose my thoughts on the subject, no doubt after this lecture my mind was in a very confused state. The reason being, I understand that it is offensive to a group of people who share a culture to then see another person who is not of that same culture, take elements from it into their own lives, especially when this group has been oppressed in the past because of this very element. I also understand the view that, well why can’t people be allowed to dress and look the way they want?
I am extremely aware that I am speaking as a half Greek Cypriot half English 21 year old girl and I have not experienced what it’s like to live with a history of and also present day oppression, in many cases. So, it is all I can do to try to understand both sides of this argument and be as well researched as I can. I have many questions to ask still, and one of those is, why are we so intent on judging people by the way they look? It might be a white English girl or boy with dreadlocks, a person of Chinese descent wearing a bindi, a black or white girl painting an eyeliner flick on their eyelid to give the illusion of an Epicanthic fold and a longer eye. How do we know that the person behind whichever one of these looks doesn’t know the history of it? How do we know they are not a respectful person? How do we know if that look makes them feel 100x more confident and beautiful or not? On the other hand they might not know the history and they might be disrespectful. Does that make it any less superficial though, to judge someone by how they choose to present themselves? After all, they are active decisions and not features there at birth. When we are born with a certain feature and are condemned for it, that’s when we need to act. We need to support anti-racism, Black Lives Matter – these are the things that matter.