Can you appropriate your own culture?

I love nothing better than a good ol’ ranty blog post in response to a thoughtless Facebook comment. Who’s with me?

All right!

Well, about that title — we have been accused of appropriating Steinbach Mennonite culture. Which is weird because we’re from here, we live here, and this is our culture as far as we can figure out. So… can you appropriate a culture when it’s your own?

This question was raised on Facebook, but I’ll back up a bit.

So, first of all, did y’all know about this event? I’m curious because there’s been some… interesting… reaction to it. Heh.

I mean, it’s going to happen here in Steinbach so maybe not all of you are right here. But if you happen to be around and would like to take a walking tour with Andrew Unger of The Unger Review/Daily Bonnet fame… excellent!

I’ve been on this tour before (as I suppose you might expect) and it’s full of details regarding the literature of writers from Steinbach. It’s really neat to stand in the same place these writers had stood, contemplating various aspects of our local history as it unfolded around them. I love how Andrew has carefully excavated all these details and has put them together in a walking tour that will begin and end at The Public Brewhouse & Gallery in downtown Steinbach.

Anyhoozle, we’re nerds about Steinbach history, Mennonite history, local history in general, and contemplating our people’s history and our own identity and what it all means and all these complications and whatnot. That is not to say I know everything. I do not. I am working at learning all the things! And, I was under the impression that by now, a lot of people knew this about us. Like when I buy all the Plautdietsch books from the MCC and Cathy at the till is not surprised and says, “Hey, these are all right up your alley!” I love being known like that.

But I guess not everyone knows that Andrew and I love this stuff. Because when Andrew shared his event on the Vintage Steinbach Facebook page, he received some pretty interesting responses:

“…you are promoting the literary artist who themselves do not appreciate steinbach or it’s (sic) culture. Seems a little strange…”

“…they’re congratulated for finally “putting steinbach on the map” as the place they despise…”

Et cetera etc.

This was surprising because I thought we’d get made fun of for nerdily enjoying Steinbach and Mennonite history and heritage so much. I did not expect that folks assumed the opposite — that we’re just sittin’ here hating it all. Ha. Welp, I suppose this means they may not have read all this writing they claim to know so much about.

Sorry for the hasty mess of this blog post but at the same time what can I say, I think it honours the original intention of web logs, right? Just typing out whatever you wanna say and assuming you won’t get in trouble for it. Heh.

Okay well listen, I’ll dig into the whole hating-Steinbach thing in another reaction-post a different day. (Fun!)

But for now I just want you to know that this literary walking tour is honestly filled with admiration for this place and the artists it has generated and I would have fun walking and learning with anyone who joins us.

More thoughts to come!

(Feature photo taken yesterday: the plum tree is blossoming in the orchard at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach!)