Founded in March 1997, Indigenous People is a non-profit cultural education organisation based in Brixton, South London. They aim to raise awareness of the principles of sustainable development and community regeneration, a product of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, which calls for the regeneration of local communities to act as vehicles for the protection of the natural environment and guarantors of sustainable social and economic development.
Fostering Social Cohesion
Engendering social cohesion through common values, beliefs and traditions, it is the vital importance of local culture as the basis of local community that Indigenous People seek to emphasise. Their educational work therefore aims to encourage people, particularly the young, to take a more active role in the production of local art and culture, rather than remaining passive consumers of what is fed to them by the mass media. This helps to instil in them a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging in their lives, the lack of which often manifests itself in profoundly anti-social ways. Through their efforts to engender a greater sense of cultural security in young people they thereby hope to offset the negative effects of discrimination, a product of cultural insecurity. Furthermore, by advocating the principles of cultural diversity and the tolerance and celebration of cultural difference, the charity lends its support to the trend towards a more multi-cultural society in which diversity rather than uniformity is valued and sustained.
Cultural competence refers to a young person having knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds. Cultural knowledge, cultural awareness, and cultural sensitivity all convey the idea of improving cross-cultural capacity, as illustrated in the following definitions:
- Cultural Knowledge: Familiarization with selected cultural characteristics, history, values, belief systems, and behaviours of the members of another ethnic group.
- Cultural Awareness: Developing sensitivity and understanding of another ethnic group. This usually involves internal changes in terms of attitudes and values. Awareness and sensitivity also refer to the qualities of openness and flexibility that people develop in relation to others. Cultural awareness must be supplemented with cultural knowledge.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Recognizing that cultural differences as well as similarities exist, without assigning values, i.e., better or worse, right or wrong, to those differences.
Attempting to enter different cultural systems of thought can only attain understanding. This has particular significance for those who are consciously engaged in education. They have to be sensitive to different senses of self and to amend the direction and delivery of their work accordingly. It places a primary duty on the educator to listen and act in such a way as to remain true to people’s developing sense of themselves and to guard against the imposition of models of thinking, which are of the educator’s making or ownership.
So as to foster a greater degree of awareness and understanding of other cultures, Indigenous People develops cultural exchange projects and builds bridges between different cultures. Broadening horizons and accessing alternative perspectives allows us to appreciate the diversity of solutions to the social challenges and problems facing humanity. In particular, the organisation aims to demonstrate that human fulfilment and well-being can be defined in many ways, leading us away from a preoccupation solely with consumption towards a better understanding of the meaning – quality of life.
Mindful of the challenges and threats facing indigenous and traditional cultures, Indigenous People seek to highlight of how global patterns of production, supply and consumption, particularly those in the West, impact on people and their environment in non-western societies. They also seek to highlight how we in the West can adopt ethical consumption patterns and lifestyles so as to promote a more ethical and equitable global society and promote a more holistic, ecological understanding of human development and well-being. Indigenous People therefore seek to combine an awareness of ecological principles of balance and sustainability, a subsequent critique of orthodox patterns of material and cultural production and distribution and the need to advocate constructive alternatives amenable to contemporary decision makers.
The Education Sector, Schools and After-Schools workshops
A very high demand exists in the formal educational sector for cultural education such as that provided by Indigenous People. Kakatsitsi, Master Drummers from Ghana and Red Centre Dreaming have enjoyed considerable success in this area and schools work therefore provides a very solid foundation on which the future success of similar projects will be built. As the value of arts education becomes ever more apparent, even gradually spreading in to governmental decision making circles, the popularity of arts education from outside the Anglo-Saxon cultural mainstream will continue to grow. The Education sector, supported by ever increasing amounts of funding from the public and private sector, therefore offers a massive market in to which Indigenous People intend to expand.
Schools provide the backbone audience of the organisation, hosting performance/demonstrations of about 45-60 minutes to begin the day, followed by workshops of class sized groups of about 30 children. Primary schools, in both rural and urban areas, with children aged 5-11, provide about 90% of work in schools, although colleges of further education, particularly those with courses in music and dance, will also be targeted in the future. The performers, supported by a narrator show the children how the music and dance is structured and inspired, as well as providing them with an opportunity for them to join, helping to generate an energy of enthusiasm for the workshops to come.
Workshops are also be offered in the after-school period or during the evening at youth/community centres in partnership with the after-school programmes of local schools, youth clubs and other local community groups such as the scouts, guides, cubs or brownies. Evening classes for adults are also popular.
The quality of art and culture on the UK’s summer festival circuit is matched only by its diversity. From the largest at Glastonbury, where an estimated 150,000 people gather across 10 fields, to the smallest of villages fairs, the festivals offer city dwellers the opportunity to spend a weekend in the country enjoying a holistic entertainment experience. As well as stages playing everything from rock, dance, folk, jazz and world music there are cafes serving all types of food, educational exhibitions informing people about the latest environmental or third world campaigns, healing areas offering the range of alternative techniques and retail outlets selling a wide variety of ethnic goods. There are also a growing number of themed festivals such as those with an environmental or social dimension, including the Big Green Gathering or the various Respect/Anti-Racist Festivals, organised by local authorities that promote inter-racial tolerance and multiculturalism.
The audience at these events is composed of a variety of age groups, with families well represented alongside the 18-35 group. The majority has above average disposal incomes and is interested in exploring non-western or alternative cultures. While the growth in demand for ethnic culture is to a certain extent very encouraging, many of the consumers or traders of ethnic products have regrettably little or no regard for the social, cultural or economic context within which their consumption or trade takes place. Of particular concern is the extent to which relatively prosperous, middle class followers of the new age seem content to travel the world with their hard currency, buying up produce at rock bottom prices, due primarily to the massive socio-economic inequalities facing the producers, before selling them on in the West at massive mark ups. The need to introduce concepts of fair-trade in to this marketplace grows ever more apparent, particularly the need for indigenous or local producers to be given greater reward and control over the marketing of their goods and the culture behind it.
Arts Centres and local authority festivals are always keen on presenting performances of an ethnic or multicultural nature, particularly if they have a well-organised educational dimension that also serves to market the performance. Packages are therefore often negotiated holistically to include a number of different local project partners – the local authority or city council events unit, the local education authority, the youth service and the host venue.