To wear – or not to wear – indigenous design is a topic of discussion that keeps popping up in my social circles. The clothing and jewellery are gorgeous, but is it cultural appropriation when non-indigenous people wear them?
Mary Simon is Canada’s newest Governor General. At her recent inauguration she wore a dress and jacket designed and decorated by Victoria Okpik and Julie Grenier. This brief article from the Inuit Art Foundation highlights the artists and their works. (Have a look because you won’t want to miss the image of the outfit Victoria Okpik designed for the musical artist Elisapie.)
Mary Simon is indigenous – born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik. It’s more than appropriate that she wears clothing created by indigenous artists. I wonder, though, whether it’s fitting for me, a first generation Canadian, to wear indigenous designs?
As I explore the question, it seems clear that we bear a responsibility as consumers / wearers to ensure that the work is authentic, not mass produced. Has the artist been compensated for their creations? Has the artist been paid?
If you’re interested in reading more about the propriety of wearing indigenous designs, here’s a HuffPost article by Haley Lewis and a Toronto Star interview with indigenous artist Killa Atencio. You may also want to check out this Indigenous Arts Collective. Their tagline is We are artists FOR artists.