Founded in March 1997, Indigenous People is a non-profit cultural education organisation currently based in Brighton.
Indigenous People aims to raise levels of individual and social health and wellbeing by encouraging and educating people, particularly children and young people, in how they can become more active producers of art and culture rather than remaining mere passive consumers of the mass media. The charity seeks to highlight the sense of inclusion and belonging that can be generated by participation in local community cultural activities exemplified by traditional African drumming, dancing and singing and to promote cultural sensitivity and the celebration, rather than fear, of cultural diversity. It therefore seeks to tackle discrimination and prejudice which are invariably the product of cultural ignorance. Finally, the charity also seeks to promote sustainability by highlighting the worth of non-material avenues of human fulfilment and to support efforts to preserve the planet’s bio-cultural diversity and the knowledge embodied in traditional cultures of the natural world and how to conserve it.
Social Inclusion and 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.
Sustainability and Healthy Lifestyles
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. In particular, the charity seeks to highlight how happiness and wellbeing can be enhanced by participation in local community cultural activities, as exemplified by traditional African drumming, dancing and singing, rather than the relentless pursuit if material wealth which is placing an unsustainable burden on the earth and environment.
There is a growing body of evidence to show that activities such as drumming and dancing are excellent ways of promoting individual and social health, both physical and mental. For more information on our research in this area, please click here.
Traditional music and dance culture is seen by us to be part of global bio-cultural diversity, an integral component of the world’s diverse heritage of value and belief. Many indigenous cultures possess unique ecological knowledge and eco-spiritual perspectives, which face eradication in the face of westernization and extinction of their guardians. Indigenous People also seek to enable people in the West, whose connection to the environment has invariably been broken through modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation, to take inspiration from indigenous cultures to develop a greater environmental awareness, harnessing the power of traditional music and dance to communicate with the audience’s emotions or subconscious as well as their rational, conscious minds.
For more information on the importance of Biocultural Diversity, please click here.
The Education Sector, Schools and After-Schools workshops
A very high demand exists in the formal educational sector for cultural education services such as that provided by Indigenous People. The Kakatsitsi, Master Drummers from Ghana 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.
Schools provide the backbone audience of the organisation, hosting performance/demonstrations followed by workshops for class sized groups of about 30 children in each. Primary schools, in both rural and urban areas, with children aged 5-11, provide about 90% of work in schools, although we also cater for secondary schools. More information about our schools work can be found here.
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. The growth in the private festivals’ market has been substantial in recent years and while many are focussed on more mainstream popular forms of music, there are enough that cater for African, World or Folk music to provide Indigenous People with considerable opportunities to perform and deliver workshops. While the sector has undergone a significant contraction since 2008 with at times drastic cut backs in funding, local authority festivals have been a very fruitful source of work for Indigenous People.
Arts Centres 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.