Is it possible to really completely understand a culture different from one’s own? Our Grade IX students of the residential wing wrestled with this and questions of prejudice in a session held for them yesterday.
Our students chose props of their choice to enact a tribal ritual assigned to them with specified prompts, while the other group of students were tasked with understanding and reporting the event as ‘National Geographic’ reporters making a mock documentary. With djembe rhythms and improvisation, the exercise helped students understand that cultures different from our own or unfamiliar to us are not ‘inferior’ or ‘under-developed’ in any way and operate with their own norms and codes.
The lively discussion that followed saw our students ponder over questions such as ‘How would aliens perceive our morning assembly at school as a ritual?’, ‘How would someone from a remote landlocked tribe perceive humans interacting at a shopping mall?’ and came to the conclusion that ‘modern’, ‘developed’ or ‘westernized’ cultures had their own rituals and artefacts as well, although our familiarity with them makes them seem self-evident and ‘normal’.