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Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation


1. the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.

Recently I have been astonished by a couple of incidents which have made me acutely aware of (conscious or unconscious) cultural appropriation. Last year I attended a public event where a non-Indigenous artist told the audience he was intending to create an “Indigenous themed” artwork. A few weeks ago, a colleague described a project where the non-Indigenous architects had apparently “created an Indigenous themed” artwork for their building. The final straw came when I was asked recently if the non-Indigenous artists, we were working with on a particular could “explore Indigenous themes”...

Non-Indigenous artists should NOT be creating “Indigenous themed” or “inspired” artworks - this is blatant cultural appropriation.

Copying aspects of another culture, by a dominant culture, outside of original context is wrong in so many ways -

  • it is damaging to individuals

  • it is damaging to collective culture

  • it is damaging to cultural preservation

  • it infringes intellectual property rights and so it is illegal

If a client or project wants Indigenous artworks this should be done via open, transparent, and genuine consultation with authorised Indigenous community representatives and should only ever be created by Indigenous artists.

Let’s be very clear - cultural appropriation is colonialism, it is exploitative, disrespectful, and deeply ignorant and serves only to maintain oppression and colonial dominance.


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