Not many know that I’ve been growing my hair for several years because it’s usually tucked in a beanie. When I let it down, I sometimes get the “exotic” comment in its various forms. When something isn’t normalized, it may be deemed exotic. You may be accused of self-exotifying during your personal journey. I remember when men getting earrings was exotic. Also, when a cultural practice becomes normalized, it doesn’t lose value. It means that balance is restored. Your tattoos, long hair, or plugs may be exotic to some but for cultural restorationists, it’s a path to normalization. You will have mistakes, imposter syndrome, and other challenges as part of the journey. Keep doing the work, learn, and unlearn. 5 generations from now, you’ll be an ancestor that helped revitalize a practice. PS: I do acknowledge that there are folks that get a full Batok bodysuit in a short span to market themselves to get more clients, or sell more goods. but that is an outlier. PSS: This will be one of the topics in my upcoming podcast relaunch
There are some schools of thought where the cultural practice is above everything. I disagree – The people should be above the practice as it’s them who decide if you’re a cultural practitioner in the first place. Sure, you can practice by yourself or with your circle friends. However, that goes against the mission of every practitioner whose ultimate goal is to save and pass on an endangered culture. The people can shut down your practice by disowning you.
That’s not to say do whatever the hell people want, but people are complex. Changing all the time, not changing, stuck in toxic ways, happy, sad, going back, etc. You get the idea. These are attitudes and emotions that a cultural practitioner has to deal with. I can see how it can be a physical and emotional drain to deal with people with their uninformed comments on Instagram. It’s especially gut-wrenching if you’re not a people person or introvert. That’s where the beauty of a diverse circle comes into play. You’ll need someone in your circle that has these people skills. Someone savvy to the everchanging modern youth culture that can communicate clearly with compassion. A solo cultural practitioner is not sustainable.
An example of being about the people, not the practice is today. Right now, as I’m typing this in Grammarly, the Coronavirus is wreaking havoc in all our lives. Even if you think this is all bullshit being perpetuated by the “Fake news media” guided by the invisible Illuminati, the reality is that people are concerned. The fear may not even be specifically about themselves or their family getting sick, but the fear of the interruption of their daily lives. The very real effects of the socio-economic situation require compassion no matter what the root cause is. Manufactured or not. Childcare, jobs, health, are real concerns right now.
Personally, I’ve been affected by 3 events canceled with 4 more possibly affected. The 3 cancellations resulted in significant monetary losses. Yes, I’m disappointed, but if I abide by “People, not the practice,” I understand. On the other side, some culture bearers make their living servicing people, so they’re affected as well. I’m privileged enough that I have a backup for situations like this. I’ll go into planning for culture bearers in another post. Address the elephant in the room. Stay safe
I’ve only been developing Instagram filters for less than a year as an exercise to disrupt myself. In this short timeframe, I’ve learned that it’s a powerful tool for conversations around culture, technology, and context. Conversations lead to understanding. Understanding leads to compassion. Compassion leads to peace. Peace leads to clarity.
Last December, I did a talk at General Assembly in San Francisco, California, about how I’m using AR filters (Spark AR) to educate about cultural traditions from the Philippines. I created a filter called Yakan Pagkawin/Tanyak Tanyak that recreates a traditional ceremonial face painting typically done at weddings. The water and flour are mixed and applied with bamboo reeds. The moon and stars patterns represent everlasting love. The woman on the left is Evelinda Hamja, a master weaver of the Yakan tribe from the southern Philippines using the effect and the one on the right is an aspiring IG make-up artist who applied the make-up based on the filter I created. It was quite the dynamic to see someone from a remote tribe use a digital version and then someone from a metropolis applies it in a traditional way.
To get started on creating your own filters, check out the Spark AR website. Here are some of my favorite AR developers on IG for your inspiration.
Anon A. Mister