Last weekend the gardener and I visited the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. We love looking at the work of Native artists and craftspeople. I had a gift to buy and thought I’d check out the jewelry.
On the way there, I started wondering about different viewpoints–differing perspectives–on this subject.
If I buy a Native necklace, can it be worn without cultural appropriation? If you use cultural elements in a colonizing manner, it is cultural appropriation. How does one determine what “in a colonizing manner” mean? Outrageous examples are easy to identify; but what about more subtle ones?
I have to assume if an artist makes a silver necklace and sells it at an event called “Indian Fair & Market,” that she wants it purchased at said event and then worn and loved. Doesn’t that make sense?
Life is a lot of thinking work. It’s good that I have to think about this subject so that I don’t walk all over somebody else, but it’s a little exhausting that I have to wonder if an artist wants me to buy her art. All us artist types want our stuff purchased and enjoyed.
This man was one of the few people practicing his skill at the event.
These lovely young ladies enjoyed showing off their crowns.
What do you think about the subject of cultural appropriation? Obviously, a lot of it has gone on in the past, which is how we have ended up with blended cultures and blended cultural arts–like American jazz, for instance. Do you have a “rule of thumb” for knowing if you are overstepping and colonizing someone else’s culture?
On another note completely, I finished Jill Weatherholt‘s delightful novel Second Chance Romance. If you want to read my review, head on over to Goodreads or Amazon before you buy your own copy!
Enjoy your read–and then head on over to Jill’s blog and let her know!
27 responses to “A Trip to the Fair”
I always thought many in the music industry are guilty of “overstepping” when it comes to cultural appropriation.
Thanks so much for your kind review, Luanne. I’m so happy you enjoyed my book. You’ve been there from the beginning…so thank you for all of your support. <3 Let me know about your mother.
Interesting re the music, Jill! Like white rappers, for instance? Enjoyed your book SO much! I hope a million people buy it! Thank you about my mother. I will!
When we were young I bought Jackie a beautiful turquoise sari. She wore it to a party at our house. An Indian man was so offended that he left (without saying anything – it was only afterwards that we heard the reason) I wore white, flimsy, Indian shirts made by an Indian woman. That was apparently OK
Ouch! Wow, I bet it was beautiful and looked great on Jackie. So hard to know what is ok. My parents brought my daughter and me silk tops from China, and lately I don’t feel comfortable wearing mine. My daughter is Korean, not Chinese. Can she wear hers? I don’t know!
I’ve seen a lot of comments about cultural appropriation in food scholarship lately.
It seems to me that if someone is selling jewelry, then buying it and wearing it is fine. Otherwise, why would they sell it? And when someone admires it, you explain who made it. I don’t think that’s cultural appropriation. I think that’s appreciation.
I guess there’s a fine line though sometimes.
I doubt anybody is going to take Mexican food away from ALL Arizonans and Californians! Yes, a fine line. There is also the question: who should buy? See what I wrote to Derrick about our Chinese tops and if my daughter can get away with what I cannot or not. I do believe we need to share cultural elements, but in appropriate ways.
It is all very confusing. I just remembered that an Indian woman gave my mom a sari once. It ended up at my house at some point. I’m not sure what ever happened to it, and no one ever wore it. And we all had some Chinese robes that my cousin bought in China. . .Remember men wearing those Nehru shirts? There was a man wearing one with those kind of pajama looking pants at my sister’s wedding–he was barefoot, too, and we teased my mom about his because he danced with her. I never thought cultural appropriation, just that he was an odd old hippy dude.
Gosh, I never thought about it at all. If I like something enough to buy it, is that wrong?
I know. I’ve seen some of these questions come up over children’s Halloween costumes. Sticky issue!
I wish it wasn’t a thing. It seems it’s alright to wear a bit of this or that, but not to appear too much unlike your own culture, which is a bit sad to those of us who believe we look fab in saris… so feminine and comfy, not to mention modest and flattering. *sigh* But I cannot hide that I’m a really, really white lady, and that can offend those who truly belong in saris. Maybe it’s one of those things that will lessen in time. Maybe one day humans will truly experience freedom of choice without social backlash.
It’s pretty confusing. There are tourist places in Japan where they make up white women (truthfully, any women) to look like geishas. That smacks of cultural appropriation to me. But saris not so much. But then it’s not my decision. So whose is it? A vote of Indian women? I guess we err on the side of being safe? No good answer like a lot in life.
I don’t know the answer either- if the artist is selling her work, be it jewelry or clothing, I feel it’s okay to wear. BUT a cultural iconic dress etc at a Halloween party? I’m uncomfortable with that. Ok- now I’m off to read your book review on Second Chances. 🤗
I agree with you because Halloween costumes tend to provoke amusement, which can be laughing AT someone or something. You will love Jill’s book!
Hi Luanne! What a thoughtful post. First, I absolutely adore the Heard Museum. I’ve only been there once, about 3 years ago with a beloved aunt, but it was amazing. The feeling of learning about native peoples’ cultures, and the connection those exhibits made to our lives, was so unique. So fun they have an artists’ market! Second, I grew up spending summers in Arizona with grandparents, so I’ve never been a full-time resident – though I was born in Tucson – and my thoughts are, that the purchase of native-made art is a gift of honoring their artistry with your support and your adoration of their work. Here in the Pac. NW we have our own native art community with Pacific Coast Native art traditions, and everything I’ve heard and read about these cultures indicates that as long as you recognize the work as art, especially new-made art vs. co-opting traditional pieces, the culture welcomes your veneration if you wear it or have the art be part of your life/home. I, too, have felt concerned in that past about this topic, and I love that you opened up the question in your post! 🙂
Theresa, I’m thrilled that you know the Heard! What a fabulous museum–that always makes me tear up, at the least. What you say about Native art is so important–yes, NEW-MADE ART by artists who are informed by their Native identities, but are also simply artists in their own right. Thank you so much for having thought about this subject and put your heart (and brain) into it!
Oh gosh, Luanne, you just made my WEEK! I feel so empowered by your affirmative comment. 🙂 Thrilled! And I love that my aunt and I more-or-less stumbled onto the Heard when we were in town for another event. :). Thank you!
Back atcha, Theresa! I hope you come again. I remember that my mother went to the Heard years before I did, and she told me she left crying. I didn’t know what she meant until I went there for the first time!
Absolutely. So interesting the impact on us visitors. 🙂 BTW, have you been to the MIM? I was just there in January and it was very impressive!
I’ve been there 3 times and probably will be going again this month because friends are coming to stay for a week and want to see it. I’ve never seen anything else like it.
Luanne, I’m curious, did you end up purchasing some of the art at the fair? 🙂
I got two gorgeous silver bracelets that looks good together for my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s college graduation! I couldn’t mention that until I gave them to her!
How wonderful. :>
I don’t give cultural appropriation a whole lot of thought. I think Californians are just different that way. It’s the kind of “whatever you want, as long as you don’t tread on me” attitude. If something is blatantly racist or mocking, that’s one thing. But there are a lot of gray areas, I think,
Hmm, I mean that sound very rational. But, to play “devil’s advocate,” do you think that a white woman can “read” what is cultural appropriation for a POC? Even if you are your kids’ mom, which does lend much sensitivity (to many white parents of COC, but not all). How can we tell what is treading on someone else? It’s that line that drives me crazy.
I think you may purchase and show appreciation for jewelry or clothing of another culture.
When we visited Mexico and Spain we purchased pretty hand embroidered “camisas” or “blousas.” We also sold our American jeans to college students to buy Lladros and jewelry. Not sure about legality!
My good friend, Sunny, who married my first husband’s friend, Kim, gave me a sari. I love it so much with golden, salmon, turquoise and orange threads.
I allowed my oldest daughter to wear the sari to read her book report about Indian tales. I think we may have been remiss for other daughter since her book report was possibly either Arabian knights or another culture. . . elementary school mishap. (Many years ago. . .)
We are more careful to ask more than assume and I think this actually shows courtesy, respect and progress, Luanne. <3 I would wish us to continue asking before assuming. . . as my German Grandma and Swedish Grandfather said that it was not polite to assume Germans were "strict" nor Swedes were "loose or sexual." Remember we are way too open in our family. Lol
Love the description of the transactions you made and of the gorgeous sari! Yes, asking before assuming is a good idea. My dad’s German grandfather was very strict, but yes, not all Germans were like that. My mom’s grandmother was German and very sweet and not strict (and a good cook). All individuals with individual personalities. Gosh, I am so tired all of a sudden! Sorry if I sound incoherent! xo
Hey would love if you could vote on my poll on this subject, all about bindis with this context.