Object 2: Paperweight in the form of art — indigenous to the Maldives
May 27, 2021
This paperweight is in the form of a turtle, decorated with patterns which are indigenous to the Maldives. It was bought in an ordinary gift shop, targeted at tourists. It is valid to view this as cultural appropriation because a piece of an indigenous culture is taken for the
purpose of profit. There is also no context given to the customer which explains the meaning behind the decorative patterns. This also creates a larger boundary between knowledge and culture because for the culture, the object may be very meaningful, and it may hold a lot of historical importance. However, to those who buy its replica in a gift store, there is no knowledge on its cultural significance but only that it is beautiful. Like the didgeridoo, the paperweight was bought for the sake of a memory in the area. The Giraavaru people, who are indigenous to the Maldives, had made these kinds of patterns and were stolen by western culture in order to gain some kind of profit. I bought this item without any knowledge on what the art or its form means to that culture, therefore, it strips them of their cultural identity. The culture may be admired through this item, but it is not respected.
Not only was there no information provided on the item’s meaning within its culture, it was also not specified how it was made. This may take away some of its authenticity because the process of how it was made, and its cultural meaning was not at all indicated and the only part of it which is appreciated was the end result. The fact that none of its history or representation is taken into consideration could lead to no knowledge of the indigenous culture altogether. Instead, it could lead to them being thought of as historical figures who no longer exist in today’s world. As a result, the relationship between knowledge and culture is rather complex because the understanding of the culture is lost through the lack of specificity of the object’s history or information.