First Nations, Aborigines, American Indians.

Art: “navel-gazerism” of the G20 countries

Painting workshops Italy
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Scorched Earth, Clear-cut Logging on Native Sovereign Land. Shaman Coming to Fix 1991 Acrylic on canvas 1.95 x 2.75 m Vancouver Art Gallery

The college Winter semester is over in North America. My corrections are done. I would like to share with you all one of the questions of my Canadian Art History exam. In a nutshell, the students had to compare Canada’s development phases with the great life stages of a human being: 1) childhood, 2) adolescence, 3) young adulthood, 4) adulthood and finally 5) the wisdom of the elder. The question was: In your opinion, if you compare art which is being produced today by Canadians, at what stage of life would Canada find itself? What follows are excerpts of Carol Brodkin-Sang’s exam which need serious reflections. Thank you Carol for your thoughts:

“Canada has finally arrived. It has reached adulthood. It is beginning to come to terms with its past and producing art with a distinctly Canadian flavour. Through abstraction, conceptual art, photography, etc. , it expressed its landscape motif and beauty of nature in novel ways. It still has a long way to go, but with its fresh outlook, Canada may reach self-actualisation.  

However, in my opinion, one of the greatest signs of Canada’s maturity is its positive attitude towards diversity and multiculturalism. Foremost is the recognition of the mistreatment of the First Nations Peoples. The saga of abuse is gut-wrenching, and the blindness White Man’s view is an embarrassment. In my opinion, these people had reached the final stage of development before White Man’s invasion: Wisdom, ego integrity vs despair (65 years – death). Their artists did not have issues with exactitude in appearance. Unlike the Symbolists, Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists, they did not have to struggle to reach the spiritual realm it was easily accessible because their culture embraced it. Both natural elements and the unconscious were not regarded as threats to society, but rather as natural parts of life and sources of inspiration. The challenge facing these people is the need to heal and continue passing their rich culture to future generations. It is fortunate that they have acclaimed international fame through the paintings of artists such as Yuxweluptun.”

In my opinion, the western world needs to change its current navel-gazing approach to art and realize that besides our G20 countries there are another 170 countries making art in the World. What do you think?

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