Thursday, September 17, 2015

Making stories - authentic voices or continued cultural corruption?

When I saw this picture it made me want to write a version of the princess and the pea story from a Métis perspective.  I wanted to liberate the woman from her role as passive victim to one as a trickster going head to toe with P't Jean.  I worked through a number of possible version in my head, but could not get the pieces aligned quite right.  As I was talking to Joel about this he asked me why I wanted to do this.  In his view this story is not old enough to have the universal elements to make a translation really interesting.

This made me think about the why some more.  My visceral reaction was that this is the way of my generation, that we combine and "mash up" things as a process of humor and as a means of investigating the discrete elements in order to better understand the underlying pieces.  In a way it is also the very nature of Métis culture. 

But as I continued  to think about this question I also had to ask myself why I was wanting to engage with colonial stories.  Why not play with the Métis cannon?  Why try to decolonize a story that does not "matter"?

Girl with a Bamboo Earring - Awol Erizku. wonderful, beautiful twist.:
Girl with a Bamboo Earring - Awol Erizku
During the day I had come across this photo playing with repositioning classic art themes to inject the missing diversity "Erizku reworks art history's classic portrayals of women by scouting models off the street and having them sit for classical portraits, retroactively adding diversity to the artistic cannon with style." 

Kent Monkman also does this with his art and even goes beyond by pulling the Europeanized elements into his created scenes.  Is the one "better" as it does not just insert the "non white" perspective/body but co-opt it?  Is insertion itself an acceptance of the dominant view and a move to squeeze other perspectives into the symbols and "official" histories?

I also remembered this piece by Banksy where the body under consideration takes control of itself  and redefines the context totally.  There is something very pleasing about the active nature of this response as well as the hole it leaves.  Reclaiming may not be a tidy process.  It might leave us with holes in our symbols and histories that are uncomfortable and even personal questions and urges that will challenge us.

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