INDIGENOUS ART & THE PANDEMIC
In times of great uncertainty, it’s pivotal to shift the focus to the most vulnerable. As the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly spread throughout the world, many indigenous lives were significantly affected. These communities already face greater threats under normal circumstances than most of us yet they still don’t receive the protection needed. Traditional forest communities are disproportionately affected as their access to basic resources is extremely limited, such as health care and proper housing.
This scenario is a product of generations of systemic racism, negligence and lack of care. We were ultimately led to one question: how can we contextualize indigenous art in the face of a global pandemic?
Protecting the Amazon in Brazil and Aboriginal territories in Australia, ensures the safety of indigenous artists and their families, especially during the pandemic. When we talk about protecting the environment we are also taking into consideration the people that live there, both responsible for constituting a biologically and culturally rich ecosystem.
As indigenous artists have been slowly incorporated into the art world, major institutions, galleries and museums are increasingly showcasing indigenous artwork. However, the artists themselves are still working under the rules of a significant unequal industry, where non-indigenous artists still get paid far more than indigenous ones. This creates a problematic scenario: collectors seem to appreciate indigenous art, but are still not concerned in protecting indigenous lives. Indigenous culture can’t survive by existing under merely symbolic terms.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BUYING ETHICALLY
As a consumer, buying ethically is how you protect artists while contributing to a more fair art economy. The Indigenous Code aims to preserve and promote ethical trading of indigenous art while also protecting against dealers who don’t respect their wellbeing and their communities. They advise in asking these questions when acquiring an artwork:
- Who is the artist?
- Where is the artist from?
- How does the artist get paid?
The institution you are buying the work from should be equipped in answering any questions you may have about the artists they represent, how they source their pieces and the transparency around their prices.
Buying ethically is the first step in the right direction when supporting indigenous artists.