Another dot in the blogosphere?

Context matters

Posted on: July 31, 2018

If you know what the Maori haka is and you know how unoriginal Singaporeans can be, did the video in the tweet make you cringe?

Some might say the performance by Keppel Corp was a cultural appropriation of the haka. I call it a cultural misappropriation because it ignored context.

The haka is a war dance performed by the Maori. The modern version was popularised by the All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby team.

Video source

Some might applaud the Keppel group for their effort and time. It surely took that and a healthy dose of daring to record and share their performance.

Others might say the attempt was laughable or embarrassing. The performance, utterances, and location were so out-of-place as to create cringe in over-supply.

Was their effort creative? If copying someone else’s template but using your own content is creative, then Melania Trump delivered an original speech two years ago.

Video source

Video source

The speech was analysed and parodied then. The Keppel haka is an unintended parody. It is also a poorly conceived cultural insult.

As with most things, I link this to schooling and education.

Sometimes the attempts to transplant ideas from a conference talk or a school visit to one’s own environment fall flat. This happens because the cultural and contextual factors elsewhere are complex and not transparent to the visitor. This is why we cannot replicate Finland’s education system and why others cannot replicate ours.

We would not expect a frequent diner of restaurants to be able to run a restaurant. We might not expect people unfamiliar with Maori culture to devise their own haka. We cannot expect a visitor to believe and do what a resident does.

Cultural and context matter. Both take a considerable amount of time to establish. If someone is offering you a quick fix, then they are likely selling you snake oil by ignoring both.

If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children. -- Confucius

Image quote I created in 2015.

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