Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cultural Appropriation, Appreciation or Something Else?

On Oct 23rd, the Ontario Arts Council released this video ...

Within three days, The Globe & Mail published 'What Happens When Indigenous Artists repurpose Hollywood's old tricks' - by Kate Taylor.

Both posit - and then take positions - on 'Cultural Appropriation', defined by the OAC website as "the intentional or unintentional use of a people's culture or cultural expression, traditional knowledge, intellectual property or artifacts".

Lines are being drawn. Again. Lines are being crossed. Again.

Meanwhile, numerous First Nation representatives and sympathizers have gathered over the past few months for what is unquestionably the largest peaceful 'protest' against 'Settler' law & enforcement in North America today. The protest raises many unsettled issues, but primarily, the desire is to protect the waters of the Missouri river from an inevitable pipeline spill.

Fundamentally, this stand by indigenous peoples, and by those who support them, pits Earth 'citizens' against corporate 'profits'. The protest is a vivid manifestation of - and DEMAND for - the 'transition' from fossil fuels to sustainable development.

It is TIME. As the hashtag so succinctly states, #WaterIsLife .

As descendant of 'Settlers' who have been in North America since the early 1700's, I recognize my familial history, but, to be crystal clear, I am not 'guilty' of 'white privilege' just because of that association. I emerged on the planet where I did, when I did, that's just the fact.

When I was a child, raised on a farm in Southern Ontario, during the 1950's, there were moments when I could not find the right words for strong appreciative feelings for the forces of Nature ... The only 'source' were vaguely distilled and often invented 'native teachings'. A certain affinity developed for 'the native way'. Yet, as a child, I did not resonant with 'Turtle Island' anymore then I resonated with certain mythical stories from 'the Bible'.

'The Kill' by MLHolton, Oil on Board
Finding Life's Essence ~ that resonated with my Truth ~ manifest in my first 'formal' painting, painted when I was fourteen. 

It is a stylized and imaginative graphic of an 'Eskimo' (as the Inuit were 'known' back then) killing a seal, with a spear, on an ice floe. It was vivid, brutal and honest. It was not appropriation; rather, it was a 14 year old's 'statement'' recognizing the vital life-giving relationship that flows from humanity - to and from - Nature. 

Entitled 'The Kill', it stands today as my first 'formal' painting.

I had never been to the far North of this continent, but again, certain myths, stories, images and realities from that area resonated with the development of my own sense of Self.   

This occurred in much the same way that, later, I resonated with imagery, myths and religious philosophies from other parts of the world, like Buddhism and/or Fauvism.

Does my re-interpretation of these IDEAS through my own developmental prism make me a 'cultural thief'?  I do not think, or believe, so. We ALL 'borrow'. We ALL 'trade'. We ALL seek the means to express our singularity within the commonality of humanity.

Today, broadly speaking, we all KNOW that 'nationalism', per se, is a 'construct'. 

The larger IMAGE that I HOLD is of us, as humanity, (as one species of many), flying through space on a twirling life-sustaining globe in a seemingly infinite multi-universe. 

To my mind, Creators, plural, exist. Often, I ascribe attributes to these assorted 'gods': they may be male, female, animal, mineral, fish, fowl, mana, Life Force, and/or just 'the Juice'. The adjectives and pronouns vary, but the deep faith and understanding remains. 

We are a part of something Greater, and the planet is our Home.

It is thus heartening for me to now see the similarities in the indigenous Thunderbird image used in the current Standing Rock stand-off, in conjunction with a painting I did in 1991, called 'The Protector'. Both resonant because both express Truth. The similarity is not indicative of 'cultural appropriation', or even cultural appreciation, it is a personal visual creation that RESONANTS with our mutual relationship to the planet. 

No ONE group or individual 'owns' this relationship or connection to the planet.

'Protectors' - MLH Painting, 1991, & Thunderbird Woman Protest Image, 2016. .

So, in response to the rabid and increasingly racial 'Nation-alists', who are springing up from all quarters, know that I stand with - and against - all of you. 

Why? Because I have already solemnly sworn my allegiance to my own mythical nation of 'Canadada'. 

I be 'canajun' in Canadada. 

All the boundaries and borders are within my own mind. And as such, I am both the perpetual 'victim' AND 'victor' ... 

... It works perfectly well for me. 

Peace. Sincerely.

p.s. And now, TVO jumps in, flaming the issue, in part. - Watch, listen and LEARN... 

AND - A very important message from a Humanity Elder: Chief Arvol Looking Horse -

...UPDATE: May, 2017 - And here's one that INFLAMES the 'boundary' IDEA again ... We're never going to get past this if there isn't a NEW kind of thinking all round ...

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