Tuesday, September 23, 2014

when your teacher is an ecology activist or whatever

It's all started like this:
woke up at 7:30 am, left M all alone, came to college to listen to cultural studies lecture, and the lecturer decided to dedicate it to global warming, animal extinction and the importance of preserving nature. i hate this type of mornings.
And continued like this:
regardless my point of view on these issues i want to say a big big thank you to the today's lecturer because oddly enough i left the building with a clear idea in my head what my essay will be about [...] i’m going to write about ivory craft and how it helps to maintain the population of elephants in africa!
And ended like this:
[in two words

if you want elephants population to grow, breed them like cows. here you can say that you're a vegetarian and don't want cows to be bred, you just want them to be left alone. but people are omnivores by nature, so not eating meet would be a step against nature. animals kill animals. and this is ok. this is how it always has been. here you can also say that while killing animals to eat them may be ok, killing them for aesthetic purposes is not. but the only thing that should matter is the end and not the mean.

we kill animals as any other carnivores animals do. but we're the only ones who can breed those who we kill. so let's just do it! duh.]

And here is my essay (well, a couple of key paragraphs from it really):
This essay addresses the social authority of historically ruling classes over the subordinate classes, i.e. the process  of  hegemony. I want to look at the intervention of the First World countries in the cultural affairs of Africa and China and its negative impact. More specifically, the ban of elephant hunting and ivory trade forced by the international environmental organizations, and how it leads to the complete eradication of the whole brunch of art, ivory carving.

Ivory has always been the symbol of wealth in Africa. After the trans-Saharan trade route was established in the 15th century, North Africa became one of the main ivory suppliers in the world which played an important role in its economic development. Thus, not only Africa developed its own national art practice, but it has also made a great contribution to the development of ivory carving throughout the whole world especially during the Gothic period and Baroque era.

As a result, the population of elephants in Africa significantly decreased. Recently, the international environmental organizations such as the World Wild Foundation and Greenpeace addressed this problem by lobbing the ban on ivory trade and elephant hunting. Since the ivory trade sanctions were introduced, prices on raw ivory increased in arithmetic progression, the First world countries such as America, Britain, France and Japan are attempting to completely close their domestic ivory markets. New rules will ban import and export of ivory, and make it harder than ever to sell. It has further compromised the existence of ivory craft in Hong Kong. 
Seated in his workshop where he has meticulously transformed elephant tusks into intricate ivory artwork for four decades, Wong Cheong-lam knows the days of his craft are numbered. 
"I'm the only one left," he sighs, looking around the workshop where six carvers once worked [...] "Ivory carvers usually do not have much education" he said. "It is too late for them to learn another skill and doing other odd jobs will barely make ends meet."
Meanwhile, the elephant population in Africa dropped even more since the elephant hunting ban was enforced. 
In the states of Africa where the ban was introduced, the illegal ivory poaching has only increased. For example, the number of elephants in Kenya dropped from 65,000 to 19,000 between 1979 and 1989, the number of elephants in Zimbabwe increased from 30,000 to 43,000 where elephants were legally sold and private ownership of elephants were allowed, and the private owners of the elephants provided all the security to the wildlife to prevent poaching.
Kenya banned elephant hunting in 1977. Poachers subsequently butchered the herds, as supervision of the animals also declined with the loss of revenue from hunting. In less than two decades, Kenya's elephant herd went from 150,000 to less than 6,000. Botswana, in contrast, permitted big game hunting, and in the same period of time, their elephant herd has quadrupled.
  1. Subsequently, the ban led to the gradual decrease of the traditional ivory craft practice in Africa and China, as well as made it impossible to successfully develop the contemporary ivory craft.The dependency in one field and the exploitation in others show that the hegemony process and neo-colonial politics continue to deprive countries of their artistic heritage as well as the economic growth.
  2. By prohibiting ivory transactions western culture continues to oppress African contemporary art practices and replaces it on the international art scene. All the aforementioned sanctions prevent Africa from competing on the world market with finished goods and services, i. e. ivory crafts and wild animals hunting. Nowadays, Africa's role in the world economy is imposed by West and can not yet go beyond. The sanctions are also the reason why the ivory carving as an art branch is ceasing to exist in the developing world.
  3. The fact that we are now in the situation where the political authority dictates the evolution of the art practice, and where the contemporary art is being shaped by the bureaucracy instead of artists themselves is a serious problem. Instead of letting artistic expression be the primary drive behind the art we are faced with a situation where the political bureaucracy has a similar if not a bigger part in the contemporary art practice and its role in the public realm.
  4. All art is inherently political and while making a political statement by creating a piece of art is healthy, to be dependent on the authority and allowing it to dictate the medium means surrendering the agency as an artist to the political class. It makes one question the whole art system, its political independence and integrity.
  5. The only way to get rid of the problem is to stop intervening in the weaker states affairs without the understanding of their mentality, ethics and traditions. Otherwise, the intervention may only be in the interests of the interveners and for their own gain.

In conclusion, it becomes obvious that there is something else hidden behind the so-called help the West is persistently trying to enforce. Because what the world has now, after all the sanctions were imposed on ivory trade and elephant hunting, is the degradation of the ivory craft threatened with complete eradication, further decrease of the elephant population, steady increase of the illegal ivory poaching and continued existence of the neo-colonialism. As well as uncertainty in the integrity of contemporary art in the developing countries and the whole world.


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