Culture identifies a community – its collective intellectual properties, its belief systems, and its artistic expressions. The dynamics of a culture is its ability to shift, change and expand through the influence of time, place, and interaction with others. Without these influences, a culture can become stagnant and meaningless, threatened by extinction.
For several centuries Eurocentric influences have engaged in cultural and ethnic genocide. The “westernization” of indigenous populations has had profound effect on the survival of their cultural identity. Many of the more fragile identities have vanished, others linger, while other cultures have embraced western influence, morphing into unique vibrant expressions. In all cases, elements of a culture are lost to time, place and influence.
I am looking at how indigenous communities are collectively bringing together bits and pieces of their past to reassert their identities and empower themselves. Whether through archeology, historical reference, or nostalgia, looking for clear meaning and understanding of one’s cultural past is filtered. There are elements we can never regain, narrative that are no longer shared, practices no longer believed.
Artifacts of objects, stories, and habits may not have the meaning once held at their inception. Uses have shifted with new needs and desires. Materials may no longer exist. Places and landscapes may no longer exist.
I see all these factors as filters of the past, which gives us fragmented perceptions of our cultural foundations. I am looking at my own Samoan heritage and how the filtering of Pacific Island culture has been effected. I am also looking at how our perceptions of the past identify us as individuals compared to that of the community.