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Making murals in the Marshall Islands and Hawai’i: An exploration of the possibilities and limits of artistic agency in a community arts education project

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This article explores the painting of two murals as part of a community arts education project aimed at understanding Marshallese children’s experiences of displacement and belonging. It describes the process and outcome of mural making workshops conducted in two schools: one in Honolulu attended by migrant Marshallese children; the other with a community of Marshall Islanders, internally displaced as a result of the effects of nuclear testing on their home atoll. Engaging with anthropological approaches to art, the article seeks to address important questions around the agency of these murals in the context of community arts education. What do these murals do, both in the process of coming into being, and as finished products? How did the images depicted on them take shape? In what ways were the artist’s intentions, and the children’s input, enabled and limited in this process? Paying detailed attention to these questions, the article argues for a nuanced understanding of what a successful community mural-making process might look like.
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Keywords: Bikini atoll; Marshall Islands; artistic agency; community arts education; displacement; murals; nuclear legacy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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