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A uniquely Canadian cultural dilemma, there is often a fine line between cultural representation and cultural misappropriation. With a complex and varied mythology born of disparate cultures yet identified with by indigenous and immigrant alike, Canadians often find themselves asking: are we celebrating our identity, or exploiting the identity of others? Case in point is the logo for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics: a smiling Inuckshuk – sacred to indigenous peoples (although notably not indigenous to Vancouver or B.C.) and yet inappropriately adorned with a smarmy grin.
Though the logo for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics may have raised some eyebrows (and potentially offended an entire population through its flip cultural misappropriation), the recently unveiled Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascots seem to be a step in the right direction. Mashups of creatures from indigenous mythology (a sea-bear?) designed by Vancouver (and LA) based illustration duo Meomi; Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi are a trio of lovable characters designed to “appeal to children from all over the world . . . represent the people, geography, and spirit of British Columbia and Canada, and . . . personify the values and essence of the 2010 Winter Games . . . . In short, they needed to be many things all at once.” [John Furlong, CEO VANOC]. In spite of the fact that they too have been appropriated from the mythology of indigenous culture, Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi have been given back stories and personalities true to the spirit of the legends from which they are derived. Legends which, in stark contrast to the 2010 logo, are relevant to cultures native to both Vancouver and British Columbia.
I guess another uniquely Canadian cultural dilemma is knowing when to let a lovable cartoon mascot just be a lovable cartoon mascot.