We must portray modern life, not traditional rituals

6th April 2007 at 01:00
As a result of articles in TES Cymru (March 23) and subsequently in the Western Mail, Cyfanfyd seems to be at the heart of a national debate regarding the abolition of traditional Welsh costume.

The point, made at Cyfanfyd's Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) and Race Equality conference, was that some schools have responded to the challenges of global citizenship by holding multicultural or diversity days which, if taken as one-off events, could present unbalanced views of Southern countries and reinforce national stereotypes.

In the light of ESDGC and race equality, we feel that schools need to move beyond such limited activities to explore the whole breadth and depth of the area. The opinion that St David's Day misrepresented modern Wales was made in the light of this comment.

There was no call made to abolish the national costume, simply to acknowledge that, if this was the only view people had of Wales, their perceptions and understanding of the country would not be representative of Wales as we experience it today.

The same kind of misunderstandings can be perpetuated by images of Africans playing tribal drums which, if they are the only images presented to children and young people, can reinforce negative views and do nothing to challenge stereotypes. As inhabitants of Wales, we understand the costume is traditional and reflects our history, but has little to do with our lives now.

Just as Wales is no longer populated by coalminers (with dirty faces and flat caps) or women in shawls and stovepipe hats, so African nations are not made up of people in tribal dress playing the drums.

It is right to celebrate our heritage and remember our traditions, but we must also consider the effect that such images, if taken out of context, might have on others.

Just as we would hope to see Wales presented in a balanced way to the rest of the world we must remember that we have a duty to present life in other countries in a balanced, rounded way, and avoid outdated stereotypes.

* Editor's note: there is no objection by the writer to the contents of the TES Cymru article referred to in the letter, which she accepts.

Liz Thomas

Formal sector officer, Cyfanfyd

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