Have you ever traveled somewhere and you noticed people do things differently which seems strange? For example, in India they don’t use seat belt in cars, or perhaps on your holiday in Mexico you saw young children selling sea shells on the beach instead of being in school?
From February to June 2011 I conducted an artist residency in a state secondary school on Vancouver Island, Canada. I asked three art glasses from grade 9 to 12 to draw, paint and illustrate one cultural aspect. This aspect was then accompanied by a short description. I received a whole range of works including colourful paintings to quick pencil sketches.
This exercise helped students to conceptualise and visualise their ideas. It also helped me to understand how we experience other cultures – how we all tend to get stuck on something we might see and generalise. The decisions they made about where to place the text, pen or pencil, the presentation and handwriting revealed their individuality as well as aspects of their education. Some conversations I had evoked sensitive and perceptive thoughts by students who had endless ideas, whilst others were stuck and did not remember, or have not encountered other cultures. For example, one student was really stuck as she had never traveled outside Canada. She had not noticed anything different when interacting with the international students in her school and told me she had not seen or read about anything on TV that had taught her about another culture. I asked her where she wanted to travel to she had no idea, no preference – ‘anywhere’. She eventually overcame this first boundary and remembered something she had in fact wondered about.
The works were then published as a book. Buy Cultural Perception here. All profits go towards the Aboriginal Education programme at the school.