So, I read an interesting blog piece, Dear Teachers, Native Masks are Not Art, yesterday and it got me wondering about the subject: Are Native masks art?
I threw the question out onto Twitter and got a few, limited responses, which I collected here: http://storify.com/rvgenaille1/native-masks-art but I am still wondering about the issue.
I don't like Native art being appropriated by others for purposes that are not proper, whatever that means (and I say that sincerely; the decision-makers on the propriety of such things seems to be arbitrary and contradictory). As Flora states in my storify above, it is a fine line. I am respectful of the sanctity of masks used for ceremonial purposes, but I am also conscious of the fact that masks are made by Native artists for the purposes of retail. I think that masks made specifically for ceremony should remain such, but I don't think I should be disallowed, as an art teacher (and Native to boot) from choosing to make masks in a Native design. If I am making a mask, I am not making a colour the paper and then cut it out. I am not specifically making the mask, or teaching my students, for a ceremony. Rather I am looking at the artistic merit and encouraging my students to create and respect.
This is an academic question, of course, I lack the skill to make masks well and would be nervous trusting my skill teaching students to safely use carving tools in their creativity. What are your thoughts on this subject? Appropriate or inappropriate? Please feel free to leave a comment below or on my Twiitter, I look forward to hearing what you think of this.