Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Cultures for Sale: Perspectives on Colonialism and Self-Determination and the Relationship to Authenticity and Tourism

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Cultures for Sale: Perspectives on Colonialism and Self-Determination and the Relationship to Authenticity and Tourism

Article excerpt

Colonialist ideology and policies are as complex as the reactions by the colonized. Attempts to establish power with or over dominant institutions (political, cultural, and/or ethnic) by oppressed people, whether termed self-determination, decolonialism, or reconstructionism, is fraught with many obstacles. Negotiating and developing policies that guarantee indigenous participation in establishing institutional policies and procedures, economic inclusion, and educational programs has been crucial in the self-determination process (Churchill, 1994; Fanon, 1967; Morris, 1997). In the 1970s, many oppressed cultures began that process by demanding and developing visual cultural projects and organizations, land claims, educational and health programs, public awareness, and tourism connections for economic efficacy. Due to the amount of global tourism, it is not surprising that tourism is viewed by government institutions, tourist agencies, and cultural centers as a vital element that bridges economic opportunities, educational issues, and self-determination (Apostolopoulos, 1996). Maintaining identity, culturally and economically, while participating in the world of tourism has led to an interesting phenomenon-- selling a cultural image.

There are many issues that derive from this such as redefinition of cultures, art forms, and educational programs. The adaptation of cultures and ways in which artists adapt visual culture include spirituality constructs, types of material utilized, transforming traditions, commodification and economic development, the development of educational programs for outsiders and insiders, organization of artists, and the role of outside organizations. Determining authenticity seems to be at the center of many established policies and is at times in conflict with the beliefs and point of view of certain cultural members and their institutions.

In exploring forms made for tourists or forms that tourists buy, it is important to be inclusive of many forms that traditionally would not to be considered art. In this article, I use the term visual culture because it is an inclusive word. Images and objects from daily lives that are found on television, movies, magazines, books, advertisements, videos, performance arts, housing and apparel design, mall and amusement park design, and other forms of visual production and communication are considered visual culture (Duncum, 2001). Duncum and Ballengee-Morris and Stuhr (2001) define visual culture as the totality of humanly-designed images and artifacts that represent us. I view visual culture as a dynamic and interactive relationship of history, heritage, tradition, cultures, and politics that are represented in multiple formats. Individuals' varied experiences with multiple histories, heritages, traditions, cultures, and assimilation produces a wide range of visual culture even within a certain cultural group. In the two places I explored, many types of visual forms are sold that represent place, people, or cultures. Items sold at stores included postcards, rocks, feathers, carved items, feather art, pottery, quilts, t-shirts, blown and manufactured glass, coal carvings, clothes, herbs, food items, recordings, videos, books, photographs, paintings, and more. The packaging, as well as the goods, illustrated representation of people, place, or cultures.

This is an ethnographic portrait study. Stivers (1993) defined a portrait as a collection of stories that explore phenomena within an insider's view. I was collecting stories from artists in West Virginia when I was invited to Brazil in 1994. It was through collecting stories from the Guarani people that I saw similarities of issues but differences in their reactions to those same issues in West Virginia. Since 1994, I have maintained relationships and continue to collect stories and do observations and taped fieldwork in both places.

Interviews, written data, observations, and dialog were analyzed according to the cultural groups' self-determined goals. …

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