Cultural Appropriations, an education’s problem

There are great debates around the world on appropriation of cultures and traditions. And it is not to be taken lightly. It is not a subject you simply troll around social media. So it is peculiar when celebrities front aesthetics in a Hollywood context, I very much agree. I put in a lot of energy in being very careful in my research. If I was to be told I disgrace a culture with my artworks, I would sincerely rethink my whole career and my values as I have grown accustomed to fuse valuable information from cultures around the world. But I am not Beyoncé or Gwen Stefani.

My passion of aesthetics and my love for respectful traditions keeps pulling me back to Asian and Polynesian cultures.  I recognize my immediate background as a bilingual Montrealer, Canadian; part Irish, part French. I know struggle and I know entitlement. My path is one that seeks balance at a greater extent than myself, it extends to my little family and to my surroundings, but mainly to my works because that is how I communicate. Seeing Pop stars add cultural elements in their styles is something that I wonder about. On one hand it is beautiful and it brings in something different, interesting to people that would not normally be confronted with it. I think it is a positive way to introduce people to new cultures, to educate. On the other hand, depending on the population, this can become a conflict in being misleading, only about style and not the deep meaning and symbolism. Something that can EASILY take place with tattoos and fashion. But then, it becomes about ethics and education. People who are not educated will not have a higher understanding of cultural identities.

If we take, for example, a simple game of Cowboys and Indians. It is widely spread as being a fun tag game, but it is VERY racist and void of historical respect for the Native People. Halloween costumes! Any type of ninja, Indian, geisha, belly dancer, sexy version of not will be inappropriate because most of what you buy in stores lack the tradition behind it. And, kids cannot be ninja assassins because they do not have the training and because ninja already means assassin. It will keep a certain easy catch-your-eye aspect of the clothing and will not bother about the rest. This adds the aspect of our individualist society to the equation as we seek to wow.

So now, how can you prove that you or that a celebrity is legit? I think it shows, I think if you are open and wise enough, you take in the whole picture and brighten your knowledge with cultures and hope for a better international future.  Should someone have a Yakuza tattoo and not be part of Japanese mafia, wear a Native Chief Headdress when they are clearly not, dress up their 6 years old in a an Asian courtesan costume that remembers us how the sex culture as always been alive around the world? Would you blame a K-Pop group for using hip hop in their songs and bboying, any non-Asian athlete to follow the path of Buddhism or Martial Arts, Die Antwoord for being who they are and creating weird visuals?… It is and will always be about ethics, and ethics is education, and respect. Without it, you are incomplete, unbalanced.

Educate yourselves, fight for it if you have to!

Here are some reads…

Blackface in Quebec: Intent vs offence

The Rattler: Cultural Appropriation

What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation



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