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the multifaceted identity

the multifaceted identity - Heather Wilson Art History 6E...

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Heather Wilson Art History 6E March 18, 2008 The Multifaceted Identity: Exploring Tribal Identity Through Art In The Modern Era Modern members of tribal communities have to navigate between various elements of an increasing globalized modern world and aspects of the local communities of their origins. The people coming from these communities may consider themselves wholly legitimate members of their native cultures, but few communities are isolated from the experiences of industrialization and globalization. Tribal identity takes on new meaning in the face of an era where many people respond to the pressures of globalization by abandoning their local identities and heritage and diving head first into the melting pot. Does maintaining a sense of tribal identity invariably require a denouncement of the global era? The two photos explored in this essay both stand in the overlap between celebrating the relics of tribal identity and embracing the continual evolution of the modern world. The first photograph shows a young woman wearing a cape from a Northwestern Native American tribe. The second photograph shows two men with massive tribal tattoos, (identifiably Polynesian in style, and presumably done in the traditional Ta-Moko method of Maori tattoo,) covering their bodies standing with their backs exposed in front of a handsome old car. Both photographs transverse various eras as the people photographed neither abandon emblems of their tribal heritage nor shy
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away from various aspects of the modern, industrialized world culture. The first photographic portrays a young woman happily celebrating both aspects of her identity: the tribal and the modern. She wears a button cape, a type of ceremonial garb frequently seen in the Northwest Coast Native American art. The young woman is a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe, and her cape bears the crest that identifies the young woman’s family lineage and regional associations. The crest bears the image of a Sisiutl , a double-headed serpent 1 . This emblem has been passed down for generations within the young woman’s family, having originally been introduced as a family crest by her grandmother. In the Native American art of the Northwest Coast, each powerful family maintains their own familial iconography, which represents their lineage, their roles in the community, and their personal family mythology. This theme of family lineage and personal identity as manifested through animalistic iconography can also be seen in the massive totem poles that the Native Americans of this region are famous for. No one outside of this young woman’s family could ever wear this crest without disrespecting the particular celebration of familial and regional heritage that is an innate part of this garment.
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