So I just came back from a long, much neededvacation to the Dominican Republic, where I pretty much just sat in the sun, and drankPina Coladas all day.
But at one point I did get my lazy butt off the lounge chair to govisit some museums and art galleries in the local community.
So some of my friends whoare familiar with my travel habits, know that I like to go to an art gallery or museum ina local community, wherever I visit, and they were asking me – why is it that you do this? Sure, places like Paris and New York are culturaland artistic hubs full of museums and art galleries, but why bother with a place likea mountain village in Colombia, an riverside city in China, an arctic community in Canada,or a seaside resort in the Dominican Republic? Funnily enough – the taxi driver in PuertoPlata did think that I was probably the first person to ask directions to an art gallery- as opposed to you know, the beach, the bar or the strip club.
So there are many reasonswhy I do this but I would say looking at local art helps me view and understand the perspectiveof a culture from its local community.
I get to see a place and its people from beyondthe lens of just a typical tourist.
And that’s why I think you should do it too.
So let’s face it – travel and the tourism industrycan often be superficial and heavily commercialized.
Many of us crave having an authentic experiences,but as an outsider – it’s kind of hard to know exactly what that experience should be.
Plus – what exactly is an “authentic experience” anyway? I’m sure there are lots of waysto describe it, but I personally define it as being able to experience the life, cultureand perspective of someone else.
And that’s where art comes in.
By lookingat the artistic creations of another person, you are essentially seeing the world throughtheir eyes.
it’s obvious still not the same thing as living somebody else’s life – butI mean until technology finds a way to put myself in somebody else’s brain – it’sprobably the closest thing we can get.
Through people’s artworks, you can see the thingsthat they value, life experiences they’ve had and the emotions they possess outpoured ontoa canvas, paper, sculptural form or video screen.
We may not always understand it, butwe get a chance to see and experience something different, and perhaps find a way to relateto someone on the opposite end of the world.
To me – the Dominican Republic representssunny skies, foamy waves on the beach, summery drinks by the pool bar and colourful shopfronts on the street.
But for someone like Lilia, who grew up in Puerto Plata, the DominicanRepublic is her home.
She sees the lush vegetation, she sees what it’s like to be a woman andmother living in this country, its struggles and its triumphs.
She sees other women fightingfor equality and peace, their determination and their beauty.
I also saw a work by artistRafael Arzeno, a painting composed of a bottle of Dominican Brugal Rum, surrounded by picturesof Puerto Plata, the Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo, The Statue of Liberty in NewYork, the Port of Hamburg in Germany and a farm worker in Ecuador.
I don’t know exactlywhat he was getting at, but looking at this, I think perhaps he was contemplating PuertoPlata’s place in the modern, globalized world, while still being shadowed by vestigesof colonialism.
Now I don’t speak Spanish, obviously withmy horrible pronunciations of these Spanish names, and a lot of- in a lot of these casesthese artists don’t speak English.
But they really don’t need to.
They could communicatewith me, and so many other people, through their art.
I may not be able to see everythingthey would want me to see and know everything they would want me to know – but I could stillpeer through this small window into their lives and imagine them as the deep and complexhuman beings as they are and once were.
I find that seeing artistic creations frommany places around the world, from as many different perspectives as possible has mademe a much more empathetical person and has provided me with so many more frameworks toview the world that I probably wouldn’t have conceived of on my own.
So what do you think? How would you definean authentic travel experience? And what are some things that you like to do when travelingto get to know the local culture better? Please let me know in the comments and see you nexttime!.