As someone who travels a bit and someone who tries not to be a self centered bigot, I love and appreciate other cultures. It is truly amazing how we are all the same species, but are so different in life. Cultural festivities, practices, taboos, clothing, diet....it's all so interesting. What are the customs now? Where did they start? Who do you value in society? How do you make your rules? It's fantastic.
For example, I took a trip to Italy and Switzerland about 4 years ago now and was able to visit a middle school class of Swiss kids. It was fun because we each presented and taught each other a little about our own cultures. They showed us this video of people dressed up in silly costumes and marched together in the street to a slow pounding drum. It was very somber, but they were dressed in this ridiculous outfits. Weird! I still don't really know what they were doing. But guess what? We do something equally as weird by dressing up and going from door to door demanding candy....or else we will do something mean to you.
The tricky part with our society and cultures is we feel weird when outsiders speak of them or portray them. Are they judging us? Is the perception wrong? If we have no control of the information given, it could be incorrect. Or we could be made fun of with blind understanding.
I've recently thought of this issue with some of my paintings. I am interested in pursuing culturally based pieces, but do not want to cross any lines. I have done two paintings based on African people (including the one above). I love them...and other people do to (one of them actually sold). So that got me to thinking about other cultures. Chinese, Russian, Aztec, Japanese. But I'm pretty sure most of them would end up being some sort of stereotype. Africans hold spears all the time. Russians wear fur hats. Japanese are constantly surrounded by cherry blossoms.
I have not taken the time to fully inform myself of their cultures, but I am still inspired by them. Is it rude or is it art?