art / music / culture / travel
i s s ue n°7 | e ngl i s h
paola navarrete The New Indie Rock Queen poRNO.
A regular lo-fy band
christian Intriago Art from Chaos
Josh Herrington Surreal Visions maté szabó
Postcards from India
symbols and faces
An Analysis to Cultural Apropiation
ÂŠ Josh Herrington
B Y j u a n c a s c o A N D O m a r c o l o ma Times change, life goes on, sounds and art are created, deconstruct and evolve. Like our magazine, which from a small digital publication created in the city of Puyo, in Ecuador became a visual and editorial experience. In June 17, 2018, we turned three years since our first edition was published. This being the seventh, we also have our third publication in English, which in this way we can reach new corners. On our way we have interviewed several excellent artists from Ecuador and the world. With the firmness of that search for art and stories to invite someone to the magazine in their social networks and with amazing people. From the Amazon. Thanks for reading.
i ssue n°7 | engl i s h
Staff Juan Casco EDITOR in chief Graphic Designer Visual Artist / Type Designer
MIGUEL VARGAS copy editor lmiguelvargasf
Omar Coloma music head editor Photographer / filmmaker OmarColomaFoto OmarColomaEc
ana miscolta cultural reporter Escritora e Investigadora AnaMiscolta
ANDREA PROAÑO CELI music reporter DifusionCordillera
47 Magazine © 2015- 2018 The reproduction and total or partial distribution of this issue is forbidden without the authorization of the publisher
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Contents PA regular o rlo-fyn band o. MUSIC
Paola Navarrete MUSIC
Posts from India
Christian Intriago Art from Chaos URBAN ART
Symbols and faces
An Analysis to Cultural Apropiation culturE / opiniOn
Porno. “A regular lo-fi band.”
Interview by: Andrea Proaño Celi Photography: Ivanna Coba
With simple sounds, Porno. manages to transmit hundreds of sensations through its melodies and its lyrics highly charged with everydayness and feeling. The band impregnates such sincerity in each note, that it is possible to travel far away, embarking on an emotional and very personal journey that allows a perfect balance between the simple and the profound while we go through the different songs of their discography. Without hesitation, it is a band with which it is possible to connect in different ways, be it for the lyrical content of their songs, as for the music they produce in general and also for the realities that each of its members represents.
Pablo Suarez (Guitar, voice, songwriter) Pablo Dรกvila (Drums) Gabriela Guerrero (Bass and voice) Edenia Lรณpez (Keys) Alejandro Zambrano (Guitarr) Porno. is a distinctly independent and self-managed band born in the city of Quito thanks to the union of 3 lifelong friends: Pablo Suรกrez, Gabriela Guerrero y Pablo Dรกvila. Pablo Suarez started the band -which was named after the Irvine Welsh's novel- and he had already written some songs. "I did not want a band of professional musicians", he tells us, from here, their proposal of raw and innocent sound was born, where the emotional content prevails before the technique. Trying to get away from any pretension, the band does not aspire to become a milestone, they consider themselves as normal people, making music for normal people.
Each member of the band, simply loves making music and enjoys being part of the musical movements, however, each one has their own projects and passions aside from the band.
Edenia, the newest member of the group, studies Psychology and is part of the choir of her university, she is also a tutor for children with autism. Pablo DĂĄvila studied History of Art and heâ€™s currently studying Journalism and working on his project "BitĂĄcora Atonal", a fanzine of the independent scene.
Gabriela is a freelance publicist, she is in charge of the band art direction and manages the image of Pop Sucio Records producing arts for the albums of the attached bands as well as for the social media of the record label, she also teaches English in a school of Quito. Alejandro dedicates himself fully to music with his alternative project "Koala Precipicio", he is also drummer of the band "Alkaloides" and he gives drum lessons. Pablo S. also gives private music lessons, he is dedicated to the production of several bands through the direction of Pop Sucio Records, of which he is also part.
Productions Since the beginning, the band comes from the hand of their first EP also called "Porno.â€? that has always aimed at the Lo-Fi aesthetic. They produced 6 "simple songs with easy lyrics and simple structures", the songs were recorded at home and on cassette tapes, maintaining its "DIY" philosophy that involves all of its productions, both in terms of its discography and the image of the band and its forms of distribution and management.
Do it by your self
EP´s Both “Porno.” (EP), “horribles” (his second EP produced to commemorate the release of the previous one), as well as his two music videos: "Los Aliens" (2016) and "El Hambre" (2017) were released under the independent record label Pop Sucio Records, and its new record production for 2018, will not be the exception. The 12 songs of the new album are already composed and ready to be recorded at the end of June, including new instruments, but above all maintaining the Lo-Fi format of their previous recordings. Soon they hope to make a release event of the album, in addition to the launching through digital media, and in the same way they hope to have already available their website where they will compile all the content of the band for the enjoyment of their followers.
Fresh & Comfy GO INTI is the transition from a university experiment to a life experiment. We work to reformulate the urban style, understanding that comfort and functionality can not quarrel with feeling cool. Live the GO INTI experience, Follow us on Instagram and enjoy fashion.
Paola Navarrete The New Indie Rock Queen
Interview by: Juan Casco Translated by: Miguel Vargas
FICCIÓN (2015) "Ficción" her debut album, introduces us his musical universe, which combines the accessible side of pop with the risks of other musical genres. There are 9 songs that compose with powerful arrangements of winds, and rock and folk environments.
Paola Navarrete was born in 1990 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In a short time, She has become a female reference in the Ecuadorian alternative music scene. In 2015, "Ficción" positioned her as one of the new indie figures of the country, hitting hard with songs like "El Mar" and "Los ojazos de mi negra" and "Nadie". Now, after touring all over the country, Paola presents "Verde Fugaz” (2018), an album that marks a new stage in her career, this time much more conceptual, with a more upbeat and risky sound. Paola's voice can bend to the lower registers of her new songs, or fill up in high screams when she sings "Los Zanqueros", her collaboration with La Máquina Camaleón. She has played at the most important festivals in Ecuador such as El Carpazo, Funka Fest and Saca el Diablo. In April, he opened Mon Laferte's concert in Quito.
How do you project your music? I project my music by following a path, walking constantly, making more music, experimenting more, going out to play in other places. I want to reach different kinds of fans, and I hope to reach as much people as possible, and I hope I could transmit my music. I love to empathize with my fans, and I also enjoy vibrating with them at the same frequency, because this is something really beautiful. This is a feeling, a message, and something that can transcend.
What are your musical influences? My musical influences are very diverse, and it depends upon how I am feeling and what I am doing at that moment. Indie music influences me a lot. I have always been a fan of bands and musicians like Radiohead, BjĂśrk, Gorillaz and its frontman Damon Albarn, Feist, Jack White. I like that they have many distinct projects, and, from my perspective, the most awesome quality they have is that they are able to reinvent themselves. I think that what influences me the most is that ability of reinvent oneself. They are artists that are not afraid to change, and they are usually in a process that goes beyond to the gender they belong to. For example, if you make pop, people tend to make an stereotype of you, or even worse, one starts thinking that one should make music according to what is commercially trending. However, I think that music is so rich and diverse, so being stuck in those ideas means going backwards as an artist.
I feel that music is a long-life choice, and it goes beyond of what you will be doing in the industry, it is an internal and personal process. It is a endless search which allows you to grow as person, musician, and it also allows you to explore new stuff.
I have always liked jazz such as Chet Baker, Billie Holiday. They are jazz musicians that somehow have influenced my music style. Nowadays, I listen to Grizzly Bear, Homeshake,The Internet, James Blake, Real State, the brand-new album of Gorillaz. I also listen to Feist, Beach House which its latest album is called "Seven", and it is amazing. Sometimes you find new artists as RosalĂa or Nathy Peluso, and you get in love instantly. I like a lot Juana Molina. I like she is an outstanding woman which is very fun and authentic. I wish I could be as she in the future.
voice and synths
FELIPE MAQUI guitar y synths
How was your experience collaborating with other artists and traveling to other places and festivals? Making a feat with "La Mรกquina Camaleรณn", the song "Los Zanqueros" was unique, it has been an excuse to travel to places like Colombia and festivals like Beautiful Noise ("Hermoso Ruido") and Estereo Picnic. We have so good friendship and the same plans in mind that sometimes when we travel, and we meet, it has been just a coincidence. I think that our friendship is over being musicians that collaborate to each other. lol.
I remember that at "El Carpazo" it was one of the first times that I collaborated with Da Pawn at Red Light ("Luz Roja"). I used to think that just few people knew me because my album was not released yet, and I was very surprised to see people saying "She is also the one who sings with La Mรกquina". I thought, well they know who I am! It is obvious that collaborating with "La Mรกquina" has been very important for my career, and it has also helped me to grow in the artistic world.
All have been really marvelous experiences. In the end, I am playing with my friend, and that is so cool.
What do you think about the presence of women in the Ecuadorian indie scene? Evidently, if you compare the rate between men and women, we are much less. It is normal to have two or three female musicians in a festival. For example, I gave almost always played with the girls of "Swing Original Monks", you know Nathalia Madrigal â€œJuana Monkâ€? and Steph Viteri. In addition, the singer of Munn, Mariella, or the singer of "Los Corrientes" which is better known as "DoĂąa Pepa" are also frequently seen female artists, and that's all. It is even less common to see independent projects started by women. Lots of times I have been the only woman in at a lineup of 8 bands.
I think that people thinking that there is no solo female singers in Ecuador is a wrong idea. There many solo female singers! I have been always strong, and I always wanted people to see me as a male solo singer without any privilege, and without locks. I think that what I have has the same value than any other band, and I am good, so I think that I can do better than just making a poster look nice because of my name. I think I have won a spot in the music scene that I deserve. I have been always supported by bands and cultural managers, and I have been lucky because I know that this is not always the case. In the end, one has to adapt to the circumstances, and this is what has to be changed.
VERDE FUGAZ (2018) The second album by Paola Navarrete reveals a more risky conceptual search in terms of composition and lyrics along 10 songs. The new musical phase of Paola brings upbeat themes, abundant synths and a renewed versatility in her voice.
How was the transition from "Ficción" to "Verde Fugaz"? In 2016, I had a very hard time because of personal experiences. I had a horrible collapse, and I was in a treatment for a year. However, this year was the beginning of my pre-production, and I didn't planned to released "Verde Fugaz" in 2018. I think that the album was like an exit, a way to be free, and even though my situation was not a tragedy, I consider it would've been very simple to stay there stuck in that whole that I told myself, you have to leave.
Songs like "Sentimiento Original” , "Esperar" , and "Desde hace un tiempo" (Since a while ago) were written before, but I was not able to create the music to make them sound as I wanted. "Verde Fugaz" , in contrast to “Ficción” , is more elaborated since in the previous production we didn't take too much time to fix the songs. Therefore, my brain told me you have to talk with Miguel Ángel Espinoza de los M. I saw the work he did with Tripulación de Osos, and I loved it. I called him, and we started to work together. He has his dark side, and I was exploding that side, then I knew it was going to work.
How was your search for new sounds? It was a long search with lots of ups and downs. I think I had the need to unleash a part of me that I have never projected in the precious album. This part is something strong that I have, and it sometimes is hidden behind the sweet voice I have, i.e., my voice can adapt when it comes to jazz, and I like to sing jazz, but I also love screaming, and I love rock too much.
I decided that this was the way it has to be. In fact, the first songs were very dark, and they didn't appear in the last edit of the album because they were very depressing, and for me, the key was "I have to address these feelings in a way that they turn into something positive. I cannot fall down."
In the end, I wrote this album for myself. The lyrics are for me. I remembered myself why I am here, and why I am doing what I am doing. I recall myself not to forget what is the path I have to follow, and that I have to forget about all these meaningless things that sometimes take control of you. For example, if people want to see you or how much people follow you on social networks. It is not that it is irrelevant, but it is not the real goal.
I had to pay for my sins. I realized that I had to sing those songs for a long time, and then they had to have a positive message because when you sing them live, you are loaded emotionally.
I think that I have evolved as a musician and as a person. I am very glad with the results I have obtained. I believe that "Verde Fugaz" is a conceptual album, but at the same time one can enjoy listening to it.
"MaĂąana" (Tomorrow) is the song that talks about anxiety, and how one has to deal with it, but everybody thinks that it is a song about love, and after all, it is, it is a song that talks about loving oneself and tame one's fears.
There are several songs that are catchy, and other songs filled with emotions, but in conclusion, what is cool is that each person can interpret them as he or she wants, and make their own conclusions. Personally, this disc reminds me how beautiful art is.
Desde hace un tiempo
Ficciรณn - Urband
Los ojazos de mi negra
POSTCARDS FROM INDIA
Kerala It has all started in South Kerala - God's own country as they call it, rightly so! That was the place where i bought my very first motorcycle, the beginning of a 6000 kms + across several states. I was in deep water during the dry season: never rode a motorcycle before my trip to India
Kumta By the time I've reached Kumta, had already survived a few near-fatal sharp turns, hundreds of cows wandering in the middle of the road, lost my keys and separated from my travel buddy as well as a fair bit of sunburn.
Kumta could be a textbook example of authentic rural life in coastal Karnataka with humble people whose everydays are full of practising ancient traditions, spiritually is all around. Sometimes most of the wisdom is coming from their ways, their being, not necessarily from their words.
Badami The days spent in Badami felt like time traveling. A hidden corner, which the relatively near Hampi steals the fame from and remains a destination less visited. The cave temples are absolutely magnificent, home to mesmerising sculptures and carvings, telling the story of a long gone empire - the Chalukyas kingdom.
It was pure luck that I've bumped into a local on my way to Bengaluru who pointed out Badam and its surroundings. Tourism is in its childhood here, one can only hope that future development will be carried out wisely and the charm can remain pristine for decades to come.
One morning I was walking around aimlessly in this sleepy little town and to my greatest delight I've stumbled upon a film shooting a Mumbai studio's production, shot in Marathi language. A piece of Bollywood magic caught in the make!
The dramatic scene only involved the lead actors only (assumably) , but the lakeside had hundreds of locals watching how the crew was arranging the set and all the details. Children pointing at the sky, following the motion of a drone camera with the most eager, sparkly eyes.
Rama Cabe, Goa Goa is best known for its drug-fuelled psytrance parties. These raves are usually near the Northern shores, where beaches are superb but somewhat spoilt by the everchanging crowds and traffic jams. After a few wild nights it was time to say goodbye to my newly made friends and take a bit of rest. I knew that the beach of my dreams had to be out there, hiding somewhere. Following the main highway I took every possible right turn 'looking for treasure'. After a couple of tries I shouted BINGO! There was it, Cabo de Rama in its stunning beauty. I was staring for minutes, completely lost in the scenery.
Afterwards I headed out to discover further away, had a lengthy walk along the sands and soon it was time to climb up and hike until the end of the peninsula. That small strip of land on the right hand side of the photo had an incredible array of wildlife: monkeys, lizards, eagles, snakes and a great lot of strange, unheard noises coming from the bushes. After staring at the sun at the edge of land and listening to the wave i had looked down and there I saw a man fishing - without a boat - ,how he got down there, that i will never know, the descending looked impossible.
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Interview by: Juan Casco
Talk Us About You I am a graphic designer and photographer from Austin, TX. I spent many years running a small branding agency and felt as though I really needed to do some design work for myself to just have some fun with it again. This is when my instagram project, @circlecirclemath, started and where I vowed to create one design every day for a year. After finishing that year I decided to close my business and find other creatives to work with where I would feel more rewarded and get to create more things closer to the ones I loved doing for myself.
How did you start in visual arts ? I feel as though my journey to becoming a graphic designer was a long road that I did not exactly expect to take. While attending school for music I found a passion for photography and quickly realized I had more fun doing that than writing music. This lead me to travel on tour with bands for many years until my photography skills started to turn into more design base ideas. I realized I wanted to go back to school for this, so I moved to Austin and really found my love for the visual arts, and here I am.
What inspires you? I find inspiration almost everywhere, though nothing comes close to traveling and listening to music. I feel most of my natural flow happens when I am able to step away from my desk, put in my headphones, and just go find something new around me. I believe it is so key to explore the world and find new things, it keeps your ideas fresh.
I see you focus on moments, faces with a emotive touch Wow! that's a great way to put that. This has been brought up to me several times, and Iâ€™ve never really been able to put my finger on the exact reason why, but it is very true. The day I created the first design with a visually distorted face I just couldnâ€™t stop. There was something about the designs never actually being about the person, it was always about the posture or the emotion you could create without a facial expression giving it all away. I believe in our current age its very easy to blend into crowds and be faceless, but we all still feel this need to find ways to have our own stories heard.
How would you describe your technique? If I had to use one word it would be, “Destructive.” When going through the photography I have for the day I the ones that always stick out to me are the ones I think I can destroy. I felt as though this was my first big shift from photographer to designer. I use to always try and take the perfect picture and that would be that. Now I think in elements like, “oh I need a picture of someone holding a frame,” and “now I need a picture of a ghost”. Basically, I started to think in ways to create a picture digitally with by “destroying” several different pictures. instead of one simple picture.
Have you work on cinema or music industry doing visuals? Even though my roots mostly come from the music industry I am surprised at how little I have returned to working within it via my designs. I have done several album art and photography jobs for bands, but I would really like to be more involved with this again, especially while living in Austin. I actually have a design bucket list and creativing motion visuals for a live concert is number 3. So my fingers are still crossed that I get to do this one day.
La energĂa solar es fuente madre de todas las energĂas de la tierra, fomenta el desarrollo sostenible, es inagotable, renovable y la de menor impacto ambiental.
christian Intriago Art from Chaos
Interview By: Juan Casco Translated by: Miguel Vargas
How do you see yourself as an artist and as a human being? I consider myself an outsider artist, a urban iconoclastic guy. I like to get rid of icons that society has established such as respecting religious images. I prefer to use the myriad of ideologies that exist around, and go against principles that are already defined. I like to make my mind fly, and I love to use everything I have next to me. It does not matter the feelings I am having, the point is to express them while painting. I employ love in its different forms, and I think of love in order to represent what I want to paint. Even though it seems fun to know how to draw and paint, I consider that it is selfish because you need to isolate yourself hours or even days in order to paint well. Otherwise, I won't finished them properly, or I will have to leave them for later. This time alone with myself, you cannot paint and talk with somebody else at the same time, I don't give my attention to anybody, I just use my earbuds, I enter my bubble, and I start creating.
I am not a perfect man, I have defects, and sometimes I try to run away entering my bubble, and trying to leave behind all of that chaos. When I paint, I am not in piece, it is simply a war in my head. "There is somebody in my head that is not me". I believe that this talent is a bless and at the same time a curse for some people. You have to express it, my art has wings, feelings, and it says lots of stuff. I combine typography with drawings, a collage, pastiche or a word or a poem... I try to draw a look, a feeling. That resilience that one has which suddenly you miss it because you are a human, and it is no longer next to you. Therefore, you cannot hear it, see it because it no longer works, because it is gone. I try to be an imaginary bridge, I try to make that resilience more touchable. While one tries to express a look with a trace, one talks to absentee, you communicate with it, and when you finish, you end up seeing it somehow. My drawings talk for me, I have a need to do it, I paint for living, and I live for painting. I invent stuff to avoid getting bored of myself. Lots of doors have been opened due to traveling and painting, and other doors have been closed too, and this is an adventure.
What techniques do you use? I don't get attached to a specific technique, so I use several ones like stencil, adhesive paint and even acrylic paint. When I paint a picture I don't limit myself, I mean, I can use spray, charcoal, and oil painting. On the streets it is the same, I love the freestyle. I don't have neither a prepared sketch nor a determined place, and I don't care if the wall is vertical or horizontal. I like when it is a surprised even if it is a wall or a door, the scenes are different. Stencil is a technique that is very rich, and I like it. I make collages with a paint roller or brush. Sometimes I take a couple of mops, and I take a bucket with ink to make calligraffiti. Light and water are other elements that I employ when I perform fleeting graffitti. Another technique that I also use is mapping, and when I produce video art, I try to animate it using loops of movements. These are the techniques that I have learned during all this time. I don't know them all well, but I am learning to evolve and to keep going.
This is usually what happens. You create something, and you think it is done, and that it is okay. However, when you turn around, and you see it again, you see that something is not properly aligned or that that there is something wrong with the anatomy of the paint, or the colors are not properly used, etc. The next time, you try to fix these issues, and in this way, you look for the perfect masterpiece which you cannot find it, and honestly I hope I never find my perfect masterpiece since this gives me energy to keep improving it, and keep looking for it. I love freestyle, and I enjoy encapsulating myself, I like being with music, myself and the wall nothing else, it is like the rest of the world disappears. I am myself today, and I am also everything I have in front of me. It is not that I am an idiot, if you spend time painting, then you forget about who is around you, everything disappears, and nothing exists. It is only you, the paint and the colors. It is like you navigate. I feel like brush and spray are connected to your mind, heart and hand. This is a connection that just flows, so let's see what happens, and let's just enjoy painting.
How is to make art in Guayaquil? I make art in Guayaquil because this is the city where I live, at least right now. However, I am from Balzar, and when I go there, I go to paint, or I leave in the middle of the path to Balzar, and I get my paints to paint. It might sound wrong that I say this, but I think that I have painted in half places that Guayaquil has with my tags and strokes. When I mean half Guayaquil I mean lots of places like the north, south, downtown. I always have my paints, sprays, brushes, and wherever I go, I just make art, and paint. Sometimes I have had to run because my art is considered crime, and sometimes I have been in jail. I see Guayaquil as a platform, and now I am here because I am working in several projects, but when I was not studying I used to travel a lot.
In what projects have you been involved? Two or three years ago, my colleagues and I made our first meeting of urban art in Balzar. Then, I made an event called "Mural Route". I have to recognized that a lot of people have helped me to make this events possible, and I feel very thanked to them for all their collaboration. However, the ideas came up from me. I have been in many other projects. For example, one that is very important is PPC, and another one is LabRts. Now, I am in a bigger project. Everything has been going fine, and now I am working among institutions from the government and private companies making urban art workshops, and sharing a little bit of what one knows. I consider that art must be shared. In Guayaquil, there exists lots of selfishness which leads to what I call artistic cannibalism. People are always saying "I am the best, and cooler than you". I think that in art actions talk louder than words, and this has helped me to travel. I have been able to know many places thanks to urban art.
What places have you visited thanks to your art? I have been lucky to been in some countries such as Peru, Colombia, Mexico and I have also visited many places of Ecuador. For example, I have been in Quito, Esmeraldas, the Amazon region, Manta, Cuenca, and Vinces. I have been in so many places that I don't even remember all of them, and I have met lots lot kind people, and I have also shared a bunch of interesting and important experiences.
Could you tell us about LabRts? LabRts is like a store. It is a place serigraphies, fanzines, posters and this kind of stuff is created. Therefore, it is like a laboratory of art. As far as I know, it tries to make professional stuff such as creating souvenirs in order to obtain money to make this project sustainable. One also has the opportunity to travel to change the stuff one has created for money, so one is able to buy food and afford one's expenses. I am not the only one in this project. I have offered other people, who want to make serigraphy, stickers or stencil, to join. So, this is the way to work.
In what projects are you working right now? Right now I am in a projectâ€Ś I love the red color and constraints. Then I am exploringâ€Ś I am creating illustrations, and I am also tramping, and I am following a style called flĂ˘neur because I like the street, the roads, so I follow them. The material that I have in my head I got them by exploring on the streets. Sometimes I find windows, doors, and books. I keep books safe because I like to analyze them later. I call them "expanded drawings". This a a way of urban anthropology because while I am traveling I am drawing and painting. I draw and paint the faces that I found interesting.
How do you live your art? I think that my drawings talk for me. They are pieces of my soul and my lifeâ€Ś Even if a trace is very small, I try to give it meaning, I never do it randomly. There are some people, as we artists, that are fortunate or unfortunate of being able to paint. I see it this way because sometimes nobody understands you, and you need to isolate yourself, but solitude makes you productive. Everything is part of a whole. Graffiti is just another tool like a projector so to speak. A computer is another tool. Everything aligns to be part of something bigger. I organize workshops with this topic, and my tag is malware. I use knowledge as a torch that I pass it to another person with the goal of corrupting the system we live in using this amulet called art. I am not satisfied with life, and I have doubt of everything. I think that reality is distorted by the fact that people believe that knowledge gives you power, and power gives you knowledge. I see that this life is every time tougher, rarer and worse. I doubt of everything: tv, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, â€Ś There are many people that are conformist, and I try to help them through art. I try to help people to open their minds, and my workshops are definitely helpful to achieve this.
Fleeting graffitis I perform fleeting graffitis on public places with light. I do it in places in which it is forbidden to expose art. I use a technique that Pablo Picasso invented in 1949. Picasso met Gjon Mili a photograph that was working for the LIFE magazine. Since I knew about this reference, I started to experiment by myself. I started painting in this public places, and drawing with a laser pointer. This is a very different way to make graffiti in an open public place.
Symbols and Faces
An analysis to Cultural Apropiation
Photo : Crow Tribe Chief ( Apsรกlooke) Museum of Photographic Arts Collections on Visual hunt / No known copyright restrictions
Writtern by Ana Miscolta Cultural appropriation is a subject prone to intense debate and is often mocked as product of an ‘oversensitive’ and ‘politically-correct’ generation. It is at the same time a term that is not well understand by those who mock it. Typical counterpoints to an anti-cultural appropriation critique are that “culture is fluid,” or “culture exchange is inevitable in a globalized world.” These points are not incorrect, but they fail to engage the key critiques of cultural appropriation. This article attempts to explain the concept and critique of cultural appropriation using examples of the appropriation of indigenous cultures in the United States and Ecuador. The purpose of this article is not to scold, rather to initiate an honest dialogue about the issue. It highlights the fact that the principal critique of cultural appropriation transcends the simple act of putting on the clothing of another culture, and rather lies in historical and contemporary social injustices that have not been rectified.
Differential treatment and the fallacy of the “exchange” Cultural appropriation refers to the unauthorized use of the cultural elements of a lesser privileged sociocultural group by a more privileged sociocultural group* Cultural elements can take the form of art, styles of dress, and customs, all of which can carry important, and potentially sacred, meanings within that culture. When these cultural elements are appropriated by a person or group that does not understand their meanings, they are converted into purely aesthetic things, cut from their meanings and intended uses.
One could say that the act of putting on the clothing of another culture doesn’t tangibly harm anybody, but the problems with cultural appropriation don’t really lie in the use of cultural symbols in themselves, but rather with unequal power relations, and the way in which society tends to value the use of cultural symbols when they are appropriated and used by privileged sociocultural groups, while historically it has devalued the use of the same symbols when they have been worn or practiced by the groups that they actually belong to.
The term privileged here doesn’t refer to anything innate, rather, it is used to describe groups that are favored according to sociocultural hierarchies imposed by colonialism and racism.
Those that defend the act of appropriating culture often point to the use of Western culture by non-Western cultures as evidence that cultural appropriation is, in reality, “cultural exchange” resulting from “globalization.” The problem with this argument is twofold; in the first place, it does not account for the reality of differential treatment of sociocultural groups in which privileged groups are socially valued to a greater degree than non-privileged groups whether they put on the clothes of other cultures of if they put on their own. It is therefore unlikely that non-privileged groups will ever be more highly valued than the privileged counterparts from which they have “appropriated,” nor will they be credited with ‘reinventing’ or ‘revaluing’ that culture.
In the second place, this argument, using the simplistic terms of “globalization” and “cultural exchange,” conceals the violent reality in which many non-privileged groups came to adopt Western culture. In many cases the use of Western styles of dress, art, and other customs are the result of colonialism and slavery, and represents what was the voluntary or non-voluntary adoption of objects in involuntary situations and environments. In this sense, equating the use of Western culture by non-Western or non-privileged groups with true cultural appropriation is a fallacy, and fails to contribute meaningfully to the conversation.
The devaluing and subsequent appropriation of indigenous cultures in the Americas: Experiences in the United States and Ecuador One of the examples that most personifies the hypocrisy inherent in valuing cultural symbols only when worn by privileged groups is the appropriation of indigenous clothing, jewelry, facial paint, and headdresses by non-indigenous, and principally, female, youth. This trend is notable especially in music festivals in the United States, especially Coachella, where year after year white women show up adorned with feathered headdresses, “native” face paint, and mocassins.
In Ecuador, the same phenomenon manifests among European and North American tourists who purchase and wear indigenous clothing, jewelry, and other crafts in artisan markets, often from indigenous vendors. This latter example, of course, differs substantially from the former in that the transaction carries with it an implied consent that the buyer can wear the item purchased, in this sense somewhat ‘authorizing’ the use of the cultural symbol.’ In addition, such a sale economically supports indigenous artisans. However, as is suggested in the argument below, with or without the consent of the cultural group, a tourist wearing indigenous jewelry, like their counterpart in Coachella, exists within a racist system of which he or she must be conscious.
That ‘native’ style is now in fashion is deeply ironic given that, since the European invasion of the Americas and until present, indigenous people have had to fight against marginalization and violent assimilation, and have been murdered because of their indigenous identities. In North America, on top of carrying out masacres and stealing land, the United States and Canadian governments began implementing policies aimed at involuntarily assimilating the indigenous population to European culture.
Indigenous children were forced to attend assimilation boarding schools, far from their families, where it was prohibited and punishable to speak their mother tongue, wear traditional clothing, use non-Christian names, or engage in any other custom or ceremony considered non-European. In short, it was prohibited to be indigenous, the purpose of the policy being to “civilize” and transform the indigenous population into Europeans. Many children died at these schools at the hands of physical abuse and infectious diseases, all in the name of ‘ridding’ them of their native identities.
Photo : © Thomas Hawk on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC
In Ecuador, the indigenous population has also had to face a society that devalues indigenous identities. The postcolonial period brought with it the same stereotypes and prejudices against indigenous peoples that had been constructed by the Spanish during the colonial period, which equated indigenous peoples with foolishness, passiveness, and incivility. After independence, elite, and most often light-skinned, Ecuadorians perpetuated the image of the indigenous person as an ‘other,’ inferior to themselves, to justify the maintenance of the political-social hierarchy in the country that left the indigenous population in a state of semi-citizenship.
The great effort with which the colonizers attempted to annihilate or otherwise devalue indigenous identities in the Americas starkly contrasts with the way that society now values the esthetic of indigenous symbols when worn by non-indigenous women, who are revered for their ‘creative style.’ Such a contrast implies that looking indigenous is in fashion as long as you’re not actually indigenous. In North American and European fashion, the indigenous identity has been reimagined without the presence of the indigenous person - in her place, a non-indigenous women, often white, privileged, and capable of paying 500 dollars for her Coachella ticket.
Although some might say that the emergence of ‘native style’ in mainstream fashion represents a new era in which society values its indigenous members, such an assumption wouldn’t be totally faithful to reality. Valuing the symbols of a group is distinct from valuing the people that belong to that group. In the context of North America, if we truly valued indigenous nations, we would not see the highest rates of suicide, nor the worst education and health outcomes on reservations in the United States and Canada. Nor would we see the construction of pipelines that cross through indigenous land and directly threaten fresh water sources, such as the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In Ecuador, colonial era stereotypes about indigenous peoples and institutional racism continue to pervade society, and the indifference of the government in regard to the environmental risks introduced to Amazonian communities by oil operation speaks volumes about how much it values its indigenous citizens. We have not arrived in a postmodern and happy era in which the legacy of systemic violence, discrimination, and underdevelopment no longer exist; on the contrary, these are all phenomenons that persist to this day for many groups of people.
© Kayla Vandervort
The act of cultural appropriation indicates an appreciation for the pretty things that belong to a cultural group, but not an acknowledgement of their historical and contemporary social struggles. It is necessary to analyze and question the way in which society values an individual from a privileged social group when he or she wears indigenous symbols in comparison to how we value the indigenous groups to which those symbols belong. If we appreciate the esthetic of indigenous cultures, but we distance ourselves from their political and social struggles, we are guilty of commoditizing indigenous culture while invisibilizing the indigenous person.
What is the correct way of using the symbols of other cultures? I am not calling for a closure of cultural borders, nor do I believe that a person belonging to a privileged social group can in no situation wear the symbols of other cultures. However, the borrowing of cultural elements must be done under the right circumstances. In the first place, the use of those cultural elements should be authorized, or even better, offered, by someone belonging to that culture (although this certainly raises the question of who can ‘represent’ a culture).
In the case of indigenous culture, this means the sale of ‘native inspired’ products in chains like Urban Outfitters is off the table. Instead, we should economically support indigenous vendors and attempt to understand and appreciate the object’s meaning and intended use to avoid objectifying it for our own purposes. And while purchasing from indigenous vendors is indeed a form of economic support, it goes without saying that not a 5 dollar bill, nor the “promotion” of the subject culture through the wearing of its cultural symbols is sufficient support. If the intention is to be an ally of a historically marginalized group, it is necessary to learn about that group’s struggle, be conscience of our own social privileges, and be prepared to support the social and political agenda of that group.
Photo © Shell Daruwala on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND
Conclusions I have emphasized in this article that the main critique of cultural appropriation doesn’t have so much to do with the use of objects adopted from other cultures, but instead the lack of recognition and rectification of historical and contemporary social, political, and economic injustices that many groups have experienced. There is nothing inherently immoral in the act of putting on clothes of another cultural origin - the indignation that results from such an act, so often labeled as hypersensitivity, results from appropriation in the context of centuries of oppression and devaluation of the same socio-cultural groups whose cultures are now in fashion for use by privileged socio-cultural groups. We must start reflecting about whether our use of other cultures takes advantage of unequal power structures, and recognize that social justice should take precedence over the “right” to dress in whatever is currently in fashion.
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