Monday, November 11, 2019

American Indian Smithsonian Museum Essay

The second floor of National Museum of the American Indian contains many interesting exhibits that tell stories of American Indians, such as the livelihood of Native Americans in the present time and the culture of American Indians. There are many items that are related to American Indians’ lives in those exhibits. However, the author of this essay is interested in The American Indian which is the name of an oil painting that has been depicted in one of those exhibits, Our Live. This oil painting was painted on linen in 1970 by Fritz Scholder who was the renowned Native American artist of the 20th century. The painting depicts an American Indian man who beautifies his long black hair with a feather and holds a pipe tomahawk in front of the yellow and brown background. Additionally, the man covers the American flag over his body. The Our Live exhibit represents contemporary life and identities of American Indians. According to the website of National Museum of the American Indian, â€Å"The main section of Our Lives centers on various layers of identity. For Native people, identity–who you are, how you dress, what you think, where you fit in, and how you see yourself in the world–has been shaped by language, place, community membership, social and political consciousness, and customs and beliefs. But Native identity has also been influenced by a legacy of legal policies that have sought to determine who is Indian and who is not. The issue of Native identity continues to resonate today, as Native people across the Americas seek to claim the future on their own terms. In other words, a significant number of Native Americans attempt to remain their identities; their languages, tradition, culture and custom although the English language, new culture and modern life style of modern Americans influence over their lives. As a result, all of the items that are shown in this exhibit express the view of American Indians about protecting or continuing their lives and identities though their society is affected by white people. For example, the oil painting, The American Indian, is not just the painting that is hanging in order to decorate a wall, but there is the hidden meaning behind the picture. The artist’s inspiration came from the relationship between native nations and modern nations which were full of complexities and ironies, confrontation and negotiations. Also, the artist painted the pipe tomahawk in the man’s hand in order to represent the notion that American Indian were not willing to give their land to white people, and they did not want to abandon their identities, so they had to fight for maintaining their land and their culture. The information board beside this painting states â€Å"The pipe tomahawk reminds us that our survivance was not freely given, we have had to defend it. † Moreover, although American Indians attempt to fight for their identities following their culture, they have to behave in modern American ways in order to survive in present society; using English instead of their traditional languages, changing their religions to Christianity, and changing their culture to modern Americans’ culture. Therefore, the artist expresses this feeling in the picture by draping the American flag over the Native American man’s figure. Because of the profound meaning of this oil painting that is able to tell the story and feeling of Native Americans, it is one of the important items that is shown in this museum. This oil painting is related to the story, â€Å"Decolonising the Mind†, in the book One World, Many Cultures. According to the story, the narrator whose name was Ngugi Wa Thiong’o was born in 1938 in Kenya, Africa. He started his story by introducing his language, Gikuyu and a traditional story that was told to teach Kenyan children by using an animal as the main character of a story. However, everything was changed when he went to a school that was a colonial school. In the school, he must use only English though he talked to Kenyan friends who have Gikuya as their own language. If any student disobeyed this rule, they would be given corporal punishment or fined money that they were not able to afford. Also, English literature was taught to all Kenyan students, whereas the oral literature of Kenya was discontinued to educate Kenyan children. Moreover, the narrator stated that if students had distinctions in all subject except English, they were not able to attend any universities and have high-paying job. Additionally, Ngugi said â€Å"the real aim of colonialism was to control people’s wealth: what they produced, how they produced it, and how it was distributed; to control, in other words, the entire realm of the language of real life. In other words, he thought colonialism controlled his country and forced him to abandon his language and culture. Although he had a notion that he resisted changing the language and culture in his country that was controlled by colonialism, he had to behave in the ways that the colonialism commanded because he did not have any choices. In other words, following the rule of colonialism was the only way that he could survive in the society. Similarly, the oil painting, the American Indian, represents modern Americans attempt to transform Native Americans. American Indians did not have any choices as same as the Kenyan people had to change their own identities; tradition, culture and language in order to survive in the obligatory circumstances. After reading the story, â€Å"Decolonising the mind†, and visiting the Our Live exhibit, the narrator of this essay thinks that culture and tradition are used to identify the difference of each country around the world, and also, people in each country are proud of their own culture, tradition and languages. As a result, people do not want others to come to their lands and command them to eliminate their culture and tradition in order to follow the new culture and tradition. This feeling is contained in both the story and the oil painting that the writer describes in this essay. Finally, the author of the essay believes that although colonialism is able to force people to behave in its ways, it cannot completely change people’s minds.

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