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UBC Theses and Dissertations

African-centred multicultural art education : an alternative curriculum and pedagogy Adu-Poku, Samuel


This dissertation is a contribution to the debate over the centrality or marginality of race and ethnicity in the production and dissemination of knowledge. It calls for more broad-based knowledge and values that represent ethno-cultural diversity in Canada, with special reference to Black/African-Canadians. The study describes the development and implementation of an African-centred Art and Cultural Education Program (AACEP) as an alternative curriculum and pedagogy. The AACEP was developed in response to historical experiences of Black/African-Canadians and research data that revealed systemic exclusion of their artistic and cultural perspectives from mainstream curricula and general school organization. Three major questions relevant to art education, critical multicultural education and the educational experience of Black/African-Canadians in Vancouver, British Columbia are considered: in what ways do school curricula, textbooks and general school organization affect Black/African-Canadian children's participation in visual art and general education; how do Black/African-Canadian students react to a community-based African-centred art and cultural education program; and what impact do the African-centred art and cultural learning experiences have on students in a multi-ethnic public elementary school. Data was generated through the implementation of the AACEP at the Multicultural Family Centre (MFC) and an east Vancouver public school. The MFC is a community-based social service provider whose range of services includes a program that fosters positive cultural awareness and increased self-esteem among Black youths in Vancouver. Evidence is based on two years of participatory observation at the MFC and on a two-week art and cultural education workshop. Data was also obtained through interviews with Black/African-Canadian students and parents, MFC's cross-cultural facilitators, students from the east Vancouver school, an art teacher, and the school principal. The study is grounded in Afri-centric theory, critical education theory and ethnographic research. In response to the first primary question, this study identified seven issues that emerged from participants' perceptions of the education system and its effects on Black/African-Canadian learners. These factors include curricula deficiency, racism and institutional barriers, lack of relevant art and cultural education models, inadequate background preparation of teachers and exclusionary teacher recruitment practices, lack of positive role models, inadequate family and community support and inadequate attention to gender issues. Second, findings from this investigation suggest that culturally relevant curriculum can provide effective means of inducing positive attitudinal change and increased self-confidence among Black/African-Canadian students. This became evident through a review of students' knowledge and views about the program, as well as their attitudes toward their own cultures and other cultural groups. In response to the third primary research question, this study concludes that positive inter-personal and inter-ethnic attitudes could be induced through multicultural art education that focuses on cross-cultural similarities. It was also revealed that the issue of inclusive schooling transcends the calls for curricula and pedagogic reforms. It has socio-economic and political dimensions that raise wider public policy questions. Several conclusions and recommendations are made about multicultural education as it relates to art education, the education of Black African-Canadians, and community-based education programs: 1) incorporation of the experiences and perspectives of Black/African-Canadians and people of colour into mainstream curricula would be valuable for expanded knowledge and multicultural literacy of all students; 2) multicultural art education provides a viable force for ethnic minority students to identify with their cultural heritages and develop their self-esteem; 3) community-centred education processes can provide important resources to facilitate multicultural art education programs in local public schools; and 4) multicultural education must move beyond cosmetic "relevance" to making curriculum and pedagogy genuinely transformative. A recommendation is made for further in-depth research of ethnic groups of students from real-life situations in community-based ethnic settings, and their interactions with school contexts, to build holistic theories of multicultural education.

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