Is Marco Polo guilty of Cultural Appropriation? He did go to China, and take noodles, bring them back to Italy, where they were changed and became the pasta that we all love and think of as an institution. We think of pasta as a traditional Italian dish. But it did start as noodles from China.
I was stumped on this question, when it was asked. I weighed up the for and against. I was still stumped. I thought of all the angles. This question was asked of me by a woman who was confused as to what was Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation. She was trying to get a handle on this question, and it lead her to ask this question.
I asked my daughter what she thought of this and she like me went through so many ideas about it. In the times that Marco Polo did this, we didn’t have the access to the internet, the world didn’t seem so big to those who lived in that time. They had no idea as to what was in other nations let alone that their were other countries.
Pasta is a changed and totally individualised form of noodle, it was changed to suit another nation’s taste. So does this mean that it was appropriating, but appreciating and changing?
Do we remember the Chinese noodles when we eat pasta? Is the overlooking of the Chinese history of this an ignorance of a blinding of views?
Is it any different to Native Americans and horses, we all think of the original Peoples of America with horses, but the horses were not part of the culture originally. Horses came with invaders and to survive the First Nations Peoples learnt to use them and perfect the art form of horsemanship.
Does food not count in Cultural Appropriation? Around the world, the hamburger has a few key ingredients but many other elements change to suit the taste of the people. Think of beetroot, there are those who say an Australian burger has to have beetroot. Other countries don’t do beetroot on the burgers so much.
Californian sushi is a perfect example. A food traditionally served one way, was changed to suit the taste bud of others and now is known everywhere. But is this Cultural Appropriation?
Do we even care about the history of our food? Should we remember the history of our food? Does the average Australian think of the slaves blackbirded to this land to cut cane to make the sugar and the rum? Do the Americans think of the African’s brought into slavery to cut cane and sugar when they put on clothes, make cakes or drink rum?
Is cultural Appropriation, just for the modern era? Is it a way to reclaim and to keep pride in your culture? Or is it like some minds think a racist tool to separate the races?
I think it is great that people are having the conversation about Cultural Appropriation, it is a step in the right direction to further understanding between all the differing Peoples. If you know that something is appropriated and that the Cultural group who lay claim to it that are upset, you then will slowly find out other things, perhaps wonderful things about those people. If you ask if something is appropriate, you can find out so much more information.
So what do you think, is Marco Polo guilty of Cultural Appropriation?