Object 1: Rain stick made by me in a class in 2010

May 27, 2021

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I made this rain stick in music class in 2010 with a carton tube and paint. It is copied from another culture believed to be from the deserts of Chile, sacred objects traditionally made with materials such as bamboo.

I was taught about the origins of a rain stick, including its uses in certain tribes to summon rain for their crops by mimicking its sound. This is an interesting object for the exhibition as I was taught by a white person, who did not truly understand its significance as he did not belong to that culture. Even though we learnt of its material significance, neither he nor us was able fully to grasp its significance for indigenous societies. If an insider to the culture had made the instrument, they would have built a sense of belonging with it, unlike me, because this can’t be achieved merely by being textually knowledgeable.

It can be said that the knowledge of rain sticks only truly belongs to those indigenous communities who use it as part of their culture, and that we will not truly ever have the knowledge that they have gained first-hand. It could, however, be argued that an outsider could have objectively more knowledge than an insider through extensive research, and that this knowledge is as important understanding the custom.

Humans often learn about cultures that they do not belong to, which is typically inevitable as we cannot belong to every community (i.e., religion). It becomes a problem when sacred objects such as the rain stick are used by people who do not belong to the culture as aesthetic, because they do not understand its significance. The rain stick contributes to this exhibition to show people often appropriate aspects of a culture without truly knowing it, and without drawing a line between appropriation and appreciation.

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