Cultural Appropriation?

Posted: January 28, 2021 in Uncategorized

As many of you know, I am a big fan of the Canadian Prog Rock Power Trio Rush. I love that band. The other day I was on Facebook and one of the other members of their fan club posted that without the band Yes, there would be no Rush. Now I am also a big fan of Yes, but I kind of see it more as they were an influence on Rush but Rush went in a different direction and forged their own path. Taken to the poster’s logical conclusion, there would have been no Yes without the Beatles, and while I have never been a big Beatles fan, I have to admit there is some validity to it. Further without Elvis there would have been no Beatles and without the African American Blues and Jazz musicians that came before there would have been no Elvis. Of course you can ride that train all the way back to the first musician and to God Himself I suppose.

In the arts, I believe we stand on the shoulders of giants. These heroes of the disciplines that have come before. Lately there has been a lot of talk of cultural appropriation. The idea being that people take credit for the arts of other cultures. I understand what people are saying, but I am a little scared by this line of thinking. It almost feels like people are trying to segregate the arts, and I hate that. Are we really saying that we want to keep art forms with the cultures that created them? Are people really saying that you can only do the music of the people of your culture? Can rap only be performed by African Americans? Since most of the early classical composers were white Europeans are we really saying that it is the domain of caucasians? I sincerely hope this is not the case. I think the arts help us to understand each other. I believe we build on each other to create new art. Wouldn’t it be better to let the arts bridge caps and unify us? Wouldn’t it be better for us to come together and create together.

Here’s an admittedly odd example. One day, I did my Pictures of Jesus presentation. It’s about two hours long and includes nine easels, five live paintings and a lot of story telling. The next day, I returned for another presentation and one of the mothers informed me that she came into her kitchen to find her young child with all her kitchen chairs lined up with paper taped to them. He was drawing and painting on the paper and telling stories. I was thrilled, because I think that is what most artists want. I want to influence the next generation. I want to have other people see what I do and build on it, creating something newer and maybe even better. That doesn’t cheapen or discount me, it allows the work to continue and grow. It is the personification of one of my favorite Bible Verses. Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. What if God started it, I faithfully did the work. Someone else will take it further, until Christ completes it.

I am not negating the atrocities that have been done to artists of color, nor am I suggesting that we claim their work as our own. What I am begging is that we don’t segregate the arts, but rather that we learn to work together, influence each other, find the works that touch our heart and take inspiration together, and take our creativity to new heights together. Arts can be a great tool for uniting people, and we could use that right about now.

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