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Lesson 8: Cultural Appropriation

This lesson deals with cultural appropriation, a term that refers to the use of objects, concepts, symbols or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that pays little or no regard to their original meaning or purpose. You will explore different examples and arguments. And you will learn strategies to mitigate cultural appropriation and to celebrate cultural diversity while attenuating harm.

The questions in this lesson are based on the essay 'Appreciate, Don’t Appropriate' written by Renée Akitelek Mboya. To read the essay, click here.

What is cultural appropriation? What are the key types of cultural appropriation? What are examples of specific instances of cultural appropriation in the arts? How can we determine when and to what extent cultural appropriation is harmful? How can we mitigate the effects of cultural appropriation?

In the To Do’s, by Catelijne de Muijnck, you are invited to compare the concepts of representation see lesson 3
and cultural appropriation in some specific cases.

With extra material on cultural appropriation in fashion and in the (art/fashion) class room.
In the broadest sense of the term, cultural appropriation is the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption or taking of specific elements (such as ideas, symbols, artefacts, images, art, rituals, icons, behaviour, music, styles) of one culture by another culture.
Appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.
Renée Akitelek Mboya

To do A

Look at the following video* that gives 3 examples of artworks and ask the question whether these are cases of ‘representation’ or of ‘cultural appropriation’.

Choose one of the examples and write down your opinion using arguments from the essay in this lesson and the theory in lesson 3 on representation.

* scroll down to see the video

The video is a product of Art Prof, an international online community of visual artists that cares deeply about art, learning, and sharing. Visit the Art Prof website here
Screenshot from the video, one of the examples of artworks.
Screenshot from the video, one of the examples of artworks.
Cultural appropriation in the arts occurs through the actions of both individual artists as well as major institutions. Currently, the most pressing conversation in respect to the latter is the restitution of looted indigenous cultural artefacts held in (typically Western) museums and private collections around the world.
Renée Akitelek Mboya

Extra Material I

Podcast: cultural appropriation in fashion

Listen to episode 1 of this podcast series in which Hester Brands, Chet Bugter and Chinouk Filique de Miranda (at the time students of the MA Critical Fashion Practices of ArtEZ University of the Arts) talk about cultural appropriation in fashion and what that means for fashion education.


Extra Material II

video's with tips to avoid cultural appropriation in the art classroom

Check the following collection of videos by Anti-Racist Art Teachers for tips to avoid cultural appropriation in the art classroom:


Lesson 9: Affect