Feelings are important. They not only colour our inner world with untold experiences in various tones and elements of light and shade, they affect how we behave. Even when we don't realise it, our feelings cause us to do and say things that would otherwise be irrational. Only when we accept the factor of emotions and feelings in the equation of human behaviour and interaction can we fully appreciate the reasoning behind what is actually happening. The emotional background in a personal life, in a family, in a city, even a nation can determine the choices made by these social entities. We are of course responsible for our own feelings, however there is a lot to be said for the affects of art and culture on how we feel about things. The way our cultural template suggests we behave and feel helps us to make decisions. Often in a subconscious rationale, we choose to act and think in a certain way because of something we have an affinity to.
Feelings are biological as well as being sensations. Our awareness enjoys or recoils in disgust at the various sensations we go through, and our body produces bio-chemical signals and products in response to the situation. Over time our bodies learn to produce levels of a biochemical background which reflect the normal state induced by day to day life. So what the culture of a social entity is will determine to some degree what the biochemical normal is. Linking these two factors, of culture and body chemistry, is a matter of evolution. We didn't evolve to have feelings because they have pleasant side-effects. Our biology was favoured when we were born with feelings and emotions, our social skills were improved, our ability to regulate homeostasis at varying degrees of risk was improved, and therefore we became successful. The creatures that evolved feelings did so on a biological level, for natural reasons.
“The roots for the alignment between life processes and quality of feeling can be traced to the workings of homeostasis within the common ancestors to endocrine systems, immune systems, and nervous systems.” Antonio Damasio, Nautilus
What ever our opinion on human feeling, the matter remains that the emotions and sensations of life that we feel are significant factors in the way we behave. Sometimes we make clearly bad decisions because of the way we feel. It is also that same ability to feel which gives us empathy to stop us from doing the bad things we sometimes feel like doing. We also have pride to stop us from admitting that we sometimes want to do bad things. It's all emotional. We must admit that these powerful forces in the human theatre have biological and societal effects, from the incredibly small to the impossibly large.
Does this mean that people from a certain culture have different biochemistry to others? It probably does. Although we are all the same on the inside, there is bound to be a subtle difference within each of us. None of us are identical people, even if dressed in uniform and following the same rules. So as we go further and further from an individual, and into a foreign land with a new culture, will the biochemistry be significantly different enough to warrant investigation? I think it is worth looking into this effect.
All we have to do is look at how offensive it can be when culture is appropriated.
“Cultural appropriation is generally understood as the taking or use of the cultural products of “cultural insiders” by “cultural outsiders” . Cultural products can range widely, including stories, styles, motifs, artefacts, artworks, traditional knowledge, as well as representations of the members of a particular culture”. Ethics of Cultural Heritage, Stanford University.
It's a well known fact that when an outsider uses an element of an insider's culture, the insiders can often be offended. Imagine using the word spoon to name a fork, and insisting it to be the case. Then imagine if the spoon had an emotional significance, like a Tudor rose or even an image of a Saint. It's easy to see how the emotional language of a symbol or tradition is quickly lost in translation when outsiders see something but don't understand it.
So how can we use art to communicate to people if the people we want to communicate with don't like us using their own art to do so? It seems like a paradox, we just want to talk! Rather than sitting down with coffee and having a chat, to reach larger groups of people and to spread deeper messages through art and culture, we need to find a way to communicate safely.
One example of this in action is in the work of Ahmed Hmeedat. This Palestinian refugee, brought up under restricted movement and strict military law, has taken to art to express his feelings and desires for all to interpret. Originally from Bethlehem, he now works in the US. Ahmed was approached by Washington's Director of the Palestinian Museum of the People, Bshara Nassar. He was asked to help build an exhibit for the opening of the new museum which demonstrates a Palestinian's mindset and hopes for the future.
Ahmed said that he aimed to create “A space that creates empathy, that educates and inspires people about the plight and history of the Palestinian people and a space where Palestinians could feel at home” - Alaraby.
This is a brave move for the museum, as under President Trump moves have been made to further reduce Palestinian sovereignty in their ancestral home. It is hoped that by enlightening visitors and the readers of reviews, eyes can be opened to the real life struggles and difficulties faced by the region. By bringing the message to the lion's den, and expressing a humanitarian concept, it is hoped that the emotional language of art can help the right decisions to be made.
The best thing about art is that often it's for sale, legitimate acquisition is totally fine. Browse now - Palestinian collectables.
Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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