Cultural Representation and Bias

Apu Ollantay is an Incan story about two people who fall in love but are forbidden to be together. This story gives us cultural insight to the Incans and reflects unique cultural values of class and status in regards to marriage. Like some classic western folktales, there is a happy ending for the couple in which they end up together and live ‘happily ever after’. One of the more interesting elements in this narrative is how this storytelling can reflect a culture’s values and can be seen as a historical record of cultural history.

The comic itself is in black and white, but there are some colorful elements in it, especially in the final panel. We see the family surrounded in a colorful sunset, which I think not only references to the sun god and his approval of the marriage/bond but it also reflects the joy of a reunited family. The use of color is very purposeful in this story, and highlights, literally with color, significant images and expresses important emotional imagery.

There are different versions of Apu Ollantay, and it poses the question of how does it vary in different contextual settings? These discrepancies can reflect different values that specific tribes have or the editing of these can also reflect thoughts of publishers—what changes do editors or publishers such as the Norton Anthology or other places this story might be published remove or select to be put in their texts, and how do they deem what may be “appropriate”? Also, I think it can be significant to think about how these folktales and narratives are framed by editors to either be neutral or biased in a way that affects how a reader interprets the story or enhance/change their understanding of the Incan cultural values/context.

Any kind of history, whether Native American, Incan, etc. can be framed in a way that might not accurately explain or portray a culture’s values accuately, so it is important to be aware of this bias and take a mental note of who is publishing or authoring the version you are reading.

Books are windows into a culture and personality of people, and it is important to represent them accurately and respectfully. It is important to honor the past and represent cultures as a piece of history that is still valued today.

 

“Books also show images, projected by
their authors. Readers, especially young
and inexperienced readers, may see these
images as reflections, rather than external projections created by someone else.” 

Scott, Marie. “Journey toward Sensitivity: An Examination of Multicultural Literature.” Montessori Life, vol. 14, no. 4, 2002, pp. 26–29.