Controversy and Cultural Appropriation Reply

Fun in the Sun Friday was the final day of Spirit Week for the 2016-2017 school year, but it didn’t end up being very fun for many people.

Quite a few students came in that day wearing “traditional” Hawaiian apparel, such as leis, luaus, and grass hula skirts. In response, plain posters with text on them were put up in the school’s staircases. They included phrases such as “Hawaiian culture is not your theme” and “Hawaiian culture is not your costume.”  Rather than sparking a conversation, the posters ended up creating controversy and exposing deeply contrasting viewpoints. Generally, students that had come in wearing these items felt personally victimized and targeted, and maintained that their outfits were harmless and not at all an instance of cultural appropriation. This raised debate throughout the school about what does or doesn’t constitute cultural appropriation, a phrase which many people understand differently, and the moral values of which are fairly complicated and debated on by anthropologists and sociologists alike.

First, there needs to be an understanding of what the term “cultural appropriation” implies. The word “appropriation” has traditionally been used as a synonym for institutional or widespread theft. The cultural aspect of this has normally been defined as when “members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” In the case of Fun In the Sun Friday, the dominant culture would be mainland American culture, while the oppressed culture would be native Hawaiian culture. It’s important to distinguish the two, given Hawaii’s history. More…

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A Run-Through of Ramadan Reply

Aside from just another Monday to get through, there’s nothing particularly special about June 6 for most people. But for Muslims, it marks the start of a month-long holiday known as Ramadan. During these 30 days, Muslims fast (go without food or drink) from the break of dawn to sunset. This year, that means fasting from around 3:45 AM to 8:30 (both shift slightly throughout the month). Thus, for those of us living in New York City, the fast lasts around 17 hours of the day.  Because the sun rises and sets at different times during the day depending on where you live, people around the world fast for different periods of time. Those in Europe, for example, fast an average of 20 hours, while those in Australia fast around 10 hours. More…

BSGE Hosts Visiting Artists Maymanah Farhat and Athir Shayota

IMG_1632The BSGE Art Department often hosts visiting artists who can share their ideas and work with students of all grades, and on Thursday, October 29, Maymanah Farhat and Athir Shayota visited our school. Maymanah is a writer and art historian as well as a curator, while Athir is a painter. Both are long-time friends of Ms. Gretchen Schwarz, who met them while working as a security guard at the Met several years ago.


Athir spoke first, discussing several celebrated paintings/artworks from over the years. A few artists he mentioned were Cezanne, Picasso, and Van Gogh. At the tender age of 19, Athir created a portrait of his father in homage to Van Gogh, imitating the flowers and cut-up body that he was known for. He also showed us a family tree he created using Eastern and Western motifs. Athir is Iraqi, and he visited his home country after the war. He painted a butcher shop with a butcher inside, the sadness on his face clearly visible. He mentioned that Iraq has such a negative image in the media, but that’s not to be believed. Other paintings he showed us were a self-portrait, a still life of “flowers of hope,” a painting of Maymanah (his wife), and a portrait with a shadow, similar to a painting by another artist who covered the subject of the painting with a veil. More…