Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Boobies Begone In B.C.


From Canoe.ca:

VICTORIA — On the same day B.C.’s first aboriginal lieutenant-governor is to be sworn in, murals of bare-breasted native women at the B.C. legislature were hidden from view.

[...]

Chief Ed John, of the First Nations Summit, called the cloaking a “significant gesture.”

A bit of back story. The murals in question are a series of four paintings done by British Columbia artist George Southwell back in 1932. By rendering several of the female figures in them topless, he was going for the "idealized native" look that one finds in the work of Paul Gauguin. Almost since the day these paintings were unveiled, however, they have attracted protests from the B.C. First Nations, and in April of this year the B.C. government voted to have them removed and stored at a cost of $280,000.

However, to frame the issue as a matter of covering up nakedness, as the Canoe story does, and as local journalists have done repeatedly since the decision was announced, deliberately cheapens native concerns. A February release from the B.C. First Nation's summit makes clear that it is not the nudity in the murals which renders them offensive:

“First Nations have always maintained the murals in the rotunda of the legislative buildings
are demeaning and degrading and do nothing more than uphold negative
stereotypes of First Nations as a conquered and subservient people.

If you look closely at the picture above, it is quite clear that the natives in it are performing menial and possibly slave labor for their white masters. That's what got people cheesed off.
PS. Why am I writing about this, other than that I am an unreconstructed boob man? My own conflicted history with the murals at the B.C. Legislature can be found here.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yep, revise history. Perhaps they should paint a new mural showing the natives as the masters, you know, to help self esteem for the community.

Anonymous said...

What did you expect? The natives would do their bookkeeping?

Ti-Guy said...

The natives would do their bookkeeping?

Why not? Most of the Europeans were illiterate at that time, were they not?

Hank Roberts said...

> menial and possibly slave labor
> for their white masters.

Gad, I thought this was a reference to the art at the US Justice Department.

"The US Justice Department has spent $8,000 on curtains to hide the statue from the cameras."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1788845.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1785000/images/_1788845_statue300ap.jpg

Anonymous said...

Re Hank's comment:

I've been inside the Justice Department's building in DC on numerous occasions. At least those statues are reasonably decent examples of competent art. The murals in the Victoria Leg, apart from being perceived by the native people as being demeaning, are, at least in my opinion, crappy art...

$280,000 to remove and store them?...I have a 98-cent "bic" and would do it for free...

Bruce

Saskboy said...

I don't think it revises history to take them down and store them, or put them in a seldom seen dusty corner. It's not destroying the art, and it can be updated with a more modern and representative mural.

TCO said...

right. See Injun trumped up concerns are all PC and important and shit. And different from making fun of thumper red staters.

I say fuck em both. That squaw looks gooooood to me.