Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation? Critical Conversations from the DAAP Equity and Inclusion Team

Image, Yinka Shonibare, The British Library


What is cultural appropriation, and why is it so controversial? Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, defines it as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission.” ...... In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction. Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.

For educators and creative practitioners, "Culture is itself an act of citation-of reference, response, and transformation (Cultural Appropriation Roundtable, Artforum. (Summer2017) These are ideas that we will likely encounter in our practices and conversations we may facilitate.

appropriation ?


Exchange ?




inspiration ?


"Messiness is a sign that you are heading toward understanding" Connie Wang, I've Written about Cultural Appropriation for 10 years. Here's What I Got Wrong

Complexity is best held by community

Picasso in his studio at the Bateau-Lavoir, Paris, 1908, Musée Picasso, Paris, Photo Credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux
For example, biblical stories like the tale of Judith and Holofernes have been repeated over and over in Western art. In 1599, Caravaggio took this conventional subject and upped the drama and gore. About 20 years later, Artemisia Gentileschi painted it from a feminist perspective. Then, in 2012, Kehinde Wiley created a version where he replaced the characters with modern versions. In this way, he built on the established context and created a piece layered with symbolism and meaning.

from How to Deal with the Idea Appropriation in the Art Room, Art of Ed

Activity: In groups of 4-5 come up with an example of cultural appropriation or appreciation. (5 minutes)

Protest of Sam Durant, Scaffold (2012) Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
P.8, Borrowed Power:Essays on Cultural Apprppriation, Ziff & Rao (1997)
Created By
Nandita Baxi Sheth

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