Around March 5th, @thisisinsider tweeted a video about a French Artist who “traded canvases for skulls”. The original video, which I have not been able to find as it has been deleted, is almost identical to the new video posted March 6th after a lot of backlash from the Twitter community. People first claimed that it was cultural appropriation. Now people are mad because Insider changed a few things from the first video. The two major differences are the caption and a one-liner in the video.
— sam (@solojisoo) March 7, 2017
The original video was captioned, “This French painter traded canvases for skulls. @mpgautheron” while the video that is now up states “This French artist infuses Mexican culture into her painting. @mpgautheron”. The original video showcased the artist, Gautheron, talking about her art. Insider says, “she wants to show people that death is beautiful” which is the core meaning and message around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. Day of the dead is a holiday celebrated every November 1st and 2nd to pay respects to all the dead. It celebrates life and death. There is a lot of food and decorations for everyone to enjoy. The staple decoration is skulls painted with intricate designs and colorful patterns.
There was no mention about Mexicans and their culture in the original video which is what caused many to think that this French artist was claiming skull painting as her own and as something innovative. Many believed she is appropriating Mexican culture while others disagree. The new video has a short sentence referring to Mexican culture: “Painted skull art has been a part of Mexican culture for centuries.” Twitter was still not happy. Many said that changing the caption still doesn’t make it okay and that the artist herself hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue.
While Insider tried to make the situation better by changing the caption to their video and adding a line acknowledging that the art is part of Mexican culture, they still did not name the actual holiday. They brushed over it quickly as if to say, “ok here, this is what you wanted, right?” Not naming the holiday and failing to acknowledge that the art Gautheron has created is clearly a representation of Mexican culture speaks volume as to how people appropriate cultures and don’t realize its implications.
To be fair, Gautheron did not claim that she was the innovator of this skull painting art but the the similarities are clear. While taking inspiration from someone or something is not harmful, not mentioning or giving credit for inspiration is. It seems Gautheron couldn’t take the criticism so her twitter does not exist anymore. Her Etsy shop is still up and running with her work going over the $300 range. Many believe she should use those proceeds to in some way benefit the Mexican people.
— Alexia Santiago 🥀 (@mystic_lee) March 6, 2017
Cultural appropriation continues to be a problem. As long as people are around to appropriate there will be others to point it out. Friendly reminder that unless you’re Mexican, remember to not wear Mexican culture on your face as a fashion statement when November 1st and 2nd rolls around this year.