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Negotiating cultural identity through the arts: The African Cultural Memory Youth Arts festival (ACMYAF)

Wakholi, Peter (2012) Negotiating cultural identity through the arts: The African Cultural Memory Youth Arts festival (ACMYAF). PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Negotiating Cultural Identity through the Arts: The African Cultural Memory Youth Arts Festival (ACMYAF) examines ways in which African cultural memory, and the extent to which the arts based approaches benefited the cultural identity socialisation experiences of young people of African migrant descent. Arts were used to explore the identities of a group of youth of African descent, as a means to developing understanding of the issues relating to their bicultural socialisation and ways in which Arts-based strategies could be used to address them towards bicultural competence. Bicultural competence implies the ability to function successfully in both the dominant and subordinate culture.

The research project was motivated by the fact that Australian youth of African descent experience psycho-social challenges to their cultural identity development. Quite often this includes a denigration of their African cultures and identities through monocultural and exclusive cultural practises of Eurocentric Australia. And yet the young people involved in this study carry with them embodied knowledge and memories from African culture acquired through cultural socialisation prior to arrival in Australia as well as in ‘African’ homes in Australia, through parental cultural education and transmission. Such knowledge and cultural values play a significant role in identity formation and self-concept of the African descendant youth in Australia.

Accordingly the festival was organised as an aesthetic and educative theatrical event using the Ujamaa circle and the African centred pedagogy theory, Participatory action research and Performance as a research Inquiry for the project. A participatory approach, through educative dialogue and performance enabled the participants to reveal their own embodied knowledge about African cultural memory leading to an educative exploration of its relevance through theatrical events. The process also enabled the participants to recall and document their cultural memories and subsequently reflect on their significance to identity negotiation and construction. The methodological research process became a Bicultural Socialisation Education Program (BSEP) because it enabled the participants through the theatrical events to integrate both subordinate and dominant cultural ideas towards self-affirming epistemologies and achieve a positive self-concept of themselves.

It is the study’s conclusion that the festival, as a third space, enabled the participants to explore African cultural memory educatively by enacting art forms and dialogue that informed their African Australian identities. Furthermore, the methodological approach enabled the participants to reveal factors that influenced their bicultural socialisation experience, namely: visibility, racism, criminal stereotyping, alienation and specific issues relating to intergenerational relations. These factors present ongoing psycho-social challenges to the participants and in turn influence their bicultural socialisation experience and self-concept.

The methodological approach was effective in enabling the participants, as a group of diverse African identities to develop an African Australian sensibility and to become conscious of their own agency in mobilising African cultural memory in an Australian context, towards bicultural competence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Moody, David and Wright, Peter
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