Amanda PL is a white artist who is inspired by the Woodlands school of art founded by the late Norval Morrisseau, an Anishnaabe artist. She was to exhibit her work at a gallery in Toronto, but her show was cancelled after complaints by aboriginal artists.
PL, showing all the awareness of issues of cultural appropriation you would expect had this to say:
“A lot of the Aboriginal people had issues with me not being native.… I feel like they think that I’m taking away from the culture, but really I’m not,” PL said.
“I think it’s a shame to say that an artist can’t create something because they’re not from that race,” she said.
“That’s like saying any other culture can’t touch something like abstract art unless you’re white, or you can’t touch cubism art.”
Normal Morrisseau’s work has deep links in the traditional religion of the Annishaabe people. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, and his grandfather was a shaman. Morrisseau’s art was strongly inspired by images he had seen on Medewiwin birch scrolls and petroglyphs his grandfather had shown him. As a boy, he was discouraged by elders from making art in this style as it was taboo. When he started showing his art to a wider audience, it caused controversy with in the Annishnaabe community, as he was depicting cultural teachings that many felt should be kept private from outsiders. If Amanda PL has studied visual arts and Native Studies, she should at least be aware of how controversial it was for Morrisseau to paint in his style. Her copying his style is not remotely the same thing as a non white person painting in a cubist style. It’s not even on par with non whites painting in the style of European religious painters, because that traditional does not hold religious images as something to be hidden from outsiders. Add to that the whole colonial history of white people taking from Aboriginal peoples and we are talking a very different kettle of fish.