CAS Reflection RDA

Today was the first session at the RDA where we were not working with the kids and we were actually going through our training session and we had received a certificate for completing our first grade of being a “sidewalker”. We learned a lot more about the service and how it was beneficial to the disabled in the country. 

Actual facts about RDA:

RDA was inspired by Madam Liz Hartel who was a Danish polio sufferer in the 1940s who won a silver medal in the Olympics for dressage in 1952. RDA is now all around the world and provides free therapeutic riding to children and adults with disabilities (which could benefit them in the Paralympics). Riding the horses are known as “therapeutic riding”. The movement of the horse is therapeutic as it helps the riders balance, coordination, muscle tone, increased self-confidence, improved circulation, respiration, mobility and communication. ‘

Something new that I realized today is that RDA and UWC have very similar values. RDA’s values are having a sense of passion, professionalism, people and partnership and in other words, passion, self-awareness, collaboration and critical thinking. 

Personally, I think that this service is one of the best services we’ve had yet because we are able to link so many of our subjects as well as personal experiences with this activity. An example would be some of my family friends who have children with similar disabilities like the children from the service. I’ve never actually properly interacted with them, mainly because they live so far away and I genuinely have very little time to spend with them. This service actually allows me to understand their disability through a different lens. Even though I am not necessarily with them, I am still able to understand them better through an experience which opens my eyes and makes me understand the disability. By learning about the disability in this service, when I meet my family friends I will actually be able to spend that time more effectively in comparison to when I didn’t know anything about the disability or how to deal with it. Another example would be that as a child, I grew up in an environment very similar to UWC’s while I was in India. I was raised around horses and other animals in a very vast green open space. However, I remember very little of that experience since I was only 4 years old. So I have taken this opportunity to use this service as a link between my childhood and my personal relationships.

Some other things we went through again today were the rules and regulations of being a sidewalker. Being a sidewalker is a leadership position as the sidewalker is taking full responsibility of the rider and must help and support the rider from doing anything rash around the arena:

  • The sidewalker is responsible for the rider
  • Sidewalker’s are required to stay with the rider until the session is over and the riders are with their carer 
  • Make sure to place the helmets onto the riders (don’t hurt them)
  • It is important to wait for the instructor before telling the riders to do anything
  • Practice stretching with the riders on the mats 
  • No walking behind the horse because it can be dangerous and it is a bad example for the rider

Theory of Knowledge Reflection on Art

Pieces that I find to be Art 

The Creation Of Adam c. 1508–1512

Significance of the art piece

In the painting, there is God on the right and Adam on the left. God is depicted as an elderly, yet a muscular man with grey hair and a long beard. He is backed by angels without wings and appears to react to the forward movement of flight. It appears to be a momentum created by the angels. This is different from the imperial images (other contemporary recreations) of God which had actually portrayed God to be dressed in jewels and royal garments. In this painting, Michelangelo has depicted God as an all-powerful ruler, where he wears only a tunic which leaves much of his arms and legs exposed. God is shown to be stretching his arm out, for Adam to touch, which shows him to be accessible even though God is actually shown to be untouchable and unreachable in most parts of the New Testament. On the other hand, Adam has a half-hearted and uninterested aim towards responding to God’s touch. This touch will not only give life to Adam but will give life to all mankind. It is, therefore, the birth of the human race. The piece also has the mindframe to have Man in the likeness of God, an idea that Michelangelo believed and endorsed.

Personally, the creation of Adam is one of my favourite pieces of all of the artwork that I have seen in my life. I had seen it as early as when I was 8 years old and I remember being mesmerized by it. The reason is because as I have grown up, I tend to be very pessimistic and cynical especially about the human race and the dying sense of humanity in general because of the things I have heard and seen people do to the Earth and and all the pain and conflict that humans tend to inflict on each other in the name of race, religion or gender. This perhaps because I am an ecocentric person so I believe that Mother Nature came first and that the environment is our first problem and our own safety and our well-being should come after. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true because we as humans are also part and parcel of nature and the ecosystem. But sometimes I really tend to express extreme dislike towards our species. However, I use this piece of the Creation of Adam as a way to remind myself that humanity does exist and that people are not all destructive and ruinous. Though I am not religious myself, I find the idea interesting that Michelangelo has portrayed a God who is accessible and keen to prove mankind isn’t as brutal as it seems.

Movies Spirited away and Howl’s Moving Castle

The movies Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle are my all-time favourite Studio Ghibli movies. Spirited away is about 10-year-old Chihiro and her parents who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku, who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm and that she must work there to free herself and her parents too.

I consider Spirited Away to be a piece of art as (similar to the painting The Creation of Adam) as it helps to fill in the insecurities that I feel which is a loss of hope for the future of mankind and the environment. The movie Spirited Away gives the message of the importance of having and keeping a good relationship with the people around you. In this case, it is between Haku and Chihiro who strengthen not only their friendship but also their personalities in going through this experience. Chihiro discovers her inner strength and becomes a more courageous individual, while, with the help of Zeniba and Chihiro, Haku is able to remember his name and free himself from Yubaba (the witch who cursed people who enter the Bathhouse). I also consider this movie to be art as it not only gives a positive message to its audience of hope, generosity and trust but it is also hand-drawn, not computer-generated, a method of animation that is nearly extinct in the United States.

Additionally, the movie Howl’s Moving Castle in which a young, contented milliner (a person who sells people’s hats) named Sophie is turned into an old woman by a witch who enters her shop and curses her. I personally think that this story is a form of art as it similarly spreads messages about hope such as appearances don’t matter, what you have inside does and more importantly, that war never makes any sense. That it is a pointless fight which will ruin both parties. The movie portrays how destructive people can be and how there is no rationality to the human behaviour. Throughout the film you don’t understand the real reason for the war that takes place, you don’t know what is the target of those who attack and counterattack. It is impossible to fight something that exists for no reason. War is a destructive fury that never stops, persisting on perpetuating its power, it is shown to have no reason or justification. In my opinion, this movie explains the actual problems that people who have been affected by real life wars face. This gives the viewers a sense of hope since the characters appear to find strength and trust in human bonds through the difficulties of war. The director for both movies mentioned is Japanese and makes several references to the World Wars (also in his other movies like Laputa: Castle in the Sky). Given Japan’s experience of the holocaust in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this element makes the two movies all the more appealing and poignant to me.

The last piece that I consider being art is Yann Tiersen’s Comptine d`un autre ete – l`apres-midi which is a piano piece from the movie Amélie. The movie Amelie is about a girl of the same name who was raised away from other children. Her father, a man obsessed with garden gnomes, misdiagnosed her with a weak heart, while a suicidal person leaping off a building landed on Amélie’s luckless mother, killing her flat. Amélie observes life from a distance, that is until the death of Princess Diana leads her to discover a hidden old rusty box, in which a young boy once hoarded his treasures. After this discovery, Amélie explores the simplicity of life and sees the beauty in almost everything she witnesses. Scripted in almost complete silence, the background score of the movie makes it lyrical and music is used with a deft hand to convey the emotions of every frame.The piece Comptine d`un autre ete – l`apres-midi personally reminds me of all the years I did ballet, as it was a piece I would often dance to. The piece itself means, “Nursery Rhyme of Another Summer” which highlights all the events of my childhood in which I danced and celebrated music. This in turn, unlike the other three pieces of art (which gives me hope and fill my insecurities), reminds me of my past, a kaleidoscope of warm memories and colour that is a part of everyone’s childhood and it tells me how music and dance helped to shape me into the person I am today.

Cultural Appropriation of Books and Movies

Recently in my English Literature class, we were having a discussion about a very interesting topic which was cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when elements of a culture are incorporated by a person of another culture. Personally, I think that cultural appropriation in some ways could be seen as offensive. It could be seen as a person trying to be racist and perhaps formulating the culture to be something that it isn’t. In some ways, it could show the person to be very insensitive, especially if they have never been in the country or experienced actual cultural activities. In my opinion, I think that an author or a director shouldn’t be restricted by a cultural boundary. However, they should realize that there will always be a chance of their work backfiring and of criticism. Examples for authors and directors being scrutinised for their work would be Life of Pi (Yann Martel and Ang Lee), The Glass Palace: A Novel (Amitav Ghosh) and Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden and Rob Marshall). 

 

Book and movie, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (directed by Rob Marshall) received a lot of criticism from the Japanese community. The reason for the backlash was because the book was primarily written by a foreign author. The Japanese audience felt as though the geishas have been portrayed as simply glorified prostitutes. The movie was also criticized for its casting of non-Japanese actors for the three main lead roles which were played by Chinese actors. In China, on the other hand, the lead actresses have drawn disapproval from those who still resent Japan’s occupation of Chinese regions before and during the Second World War. There was also resentment from the Japanese towards the West as they had incorporated mainly their perception of Japanese culture rather than representing the actual art of seduction. Additionally, the Japanese youth have very little connection with the world of the Geisha, so the older generations fear that they will see the culture similar to the way foreigners do: as something exotic. Personally, I agree with the critics who have scrutinised the movie as well as the book because the art of being a Geisha is much more than simply being a prostitute, it is about being respected and learning different forms of arts such as music or dance. In such examples of appropriated culture, the element of culture is often overruled and is replaced with drama rather than historical fiction. 

 

A book which I personally really enjoyed and that I think is culturally appropriate is The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. The author spent almost 5 years researching about Myanmar, India and Malaya (the countries that are mentioned in the book). The Glass Palace is actually one of my favourite books and it has received really positive reviews even though the book mentions parts of the Burmese culture. Although the book beings in Myanmar and mentions King Thibaw and Supayalat, it doesn’t focus on their specific story but on Rajkumar and Dolly, the main protagonists of the novel. The book begins in Myanmar and portrays the lives of characters who are Indian born in Myanmar, but slowly transitions towards India (where the characters later move to). By moving the characters to India Amitav Ghosh brought the novel towards his comfort zone. This, in turn, gave most readers (from the reviews) a better understanding of the cultural connections between India, Myanmar and Malaya and how the characters were tied together because of their background. Most of the characters in the story which are Indian represent the Indians who had lived in Burma for many centuries, most of their ancestors of the current Burmese Indian community emigrated to Burma from the start of British rule in the mid-19th century to the separation of British Burma from British India in 1937. This is the link that Ghosh explores in his novel and because of the closeness of the two cultures of Bengal and Burma, it is again a comfort zone for the Bengali Amitav Ghosh, there in not much of a cultural gap to bridge. Additionally, it would be wise to remember that throughout Amitav Ghosh’s childhood, (as a Bengali) he would be exposed to Burmese culture as authors like Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chatterji made references to Burma and the Indian community of Yangon in many of their novels.

 

Another book that I personally love and that fits into the genre of an author representing a culture different from his own is Life of Pi by Yann Martel which is about a boy who is struggling to survive through a series of unfortunate events. Similar to The Glass Palace, the reviews were very positive. However, Yann Martel is a Canadian author and is focusing on an Indian boy who is practising Islam, Christianity and Hinduism all in unison. This leads to a sense of discomfort for a practising Indian Hindu like me who finds it strange that a Hindu believer can actually be carrying out the rituals of two other religions. For example at the beginning of Chapter 5, Pi claims “I practised religious rituals that I adapted to the circumstances-solitary Masses without priests or consecrated Communion hosts, darshans without murtis, and pujas with turtle meat for prasad, acts of devotion to Allah not knowing where Mecca was and getting my Arabic wrong.” This is cultural appropriation of the worst kind as this could be seen as an offence to people who follow these rituals and to whom these rituals are extremely meaningful and need to be undertaken in the correct way. As a Hindu, it feels strange that despite Pi being a devotee of Vishnu, vegetarians by traditions offering turtle meat as prasad (sweets) during a ritual. In Hindu mythology, one of Vishnu’s avatars were in the form of a turtle. Thus, for Pi to be killing a turtle and offering it to Vishu is all the more incongruous. He almost seems to be mocking all three religions by adapting them to fit his situation of being stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In Life of Pi, rather than focusing on the cultural significance of his story, Yann Martel begins to gloss over the aspect of religion by dramatising the unfortunate incidents in Pi’s life. 

 

Not only is Martel being insensitive to the religions mentioned in the book, but he is also being insensitive to the situation he has placed his character in. Martel does this by using sardonic humour throughout the book. An example is Chapter 74 when Pi tries to elevate himself from depression and the feeling of helplessness by claiming that he has at least been provided with the basic rudimentary comforts of life by God only to say, “But God’s hat was always unravelling. God’s pants were falling apart. God’s cat was a constant danger. God’s ark was a jail. God’s wide acres were slowly killing me. God’s ear didn’t seem to be listening”. Thus, even while trying to sustain his character’s hope, Martel strips Pi’s hope away and leaves him with the harsh realization that he is slowly dying.  

 

In conclusion, in my opinion, I feel that foreign authors writing about cultures and religions different from their own is a challenging task and doesn’t always work. However, if authors do prefer to write about a different culture, they would have to undertake extensive research and back it up with an empathetic sensitivity that will help them cross cultural boundaries.