One of the fascinating things observed among the people of Isla Vista is their artistic skill. An example displaying this the artistic nature of the people is a mural near Anisq’oyo’ park.
The painting was displayed on the wall of a local Isla Vista shop facing the park. The art shows people working in a field alongside abstract symbols that appear like human faces. However, it was partly covered up, halfway painted and destroyed. The picture was also tagged with scribbles and seemed less valued. The painting is simply a forgotten piece of art, similar to the history behind it.
There were other visitors in the park, and the poor condition of the mural caught their attention. The person who was showing people around the park explained that that was not the original state of the picture and that it was vandalized by people rioting against racism and xenophobic sentiments in the past. On hearing this, several questions came up. There was need to enquire about who in particular made the drawing, what the original intention was, and whether they were aware that they were making a significant historical art. It was also imperative to establish why the painting was placed outside the park instead of inside as one of the exhibits. This information would help gain an understanding of the subsequent changes and how they impacted the purpose of the piece.
Answers to the above questions were generated from one-on-one interactions with members of the community. The activity lasted for about one week following identification of the mural. In particular, the owner of the shop on which the painting was displayed was approached in an interview. Other community members who were interviewed include four customers who visited the shop selected at random intervals, and five of the park’s staff. Further details about the people’s culture were obtained from personal observations. As Whitehead puts it, there is an array of information from natural inquiries that ethnographers generate from observations in social settings when they have nothing specific to ask about (11). Such observations were based on the people’s reactions when they saw the mural, their attitude towards the questions asked, among other non-verbal cues showed by both the interviewees and the passers-by.
Although not every detail collected about the mural connected to the cultural history of the people, speculations could be made about emerging questions. The final analysis also involved going back to the shop to clarify some answers with the subjects. Bogdan asserts that to avoid contradictory information in ethnographic research, it is imperative to discuss the findings with the subjects before documenting them in a final draft (308). The undertaking reveal how involving it is to conceptualize a single thing or artifact. The interview answers as well as direct observations were recorded in a schedule. Pertaining the latter, some people had not even seen the mural despite their frequent visit to the shop and to the park. Some gave it a strange look while others could not guess what it was. Nevertheless, substantial data was gathered from the shop keeper and the Anisq’oyo’s staff.
It became clear that the symbols in the painting portrayed ancient Chumash art. It depicted how the Chumash people had labored to possess the Isla Vista land. The art was a call to attention to the enslavement and blood shed that the Chumash people faced when confronting settlers. However, the Chumash’s significant role in history has been forgotten over the years. As only a few Chumash people are still living, the indigenous history was swept and silenced under the rug. Nevertheless, mural brings the past to the surface in different ways. First, its tattered state is a depiction of the forgotten history. Second, the symbols it presents still drive the message about a violent past and a hard-earned land. Just like the Chumash historical contribution has been forgotten and devalued, so was the mural painted on the wall of a shop outside the park instead of being embraced as a valuable exhibit inside the park.
Bogdan, Robert. “Participant observation.” Peabody Journal of Education 50.4 (1973): 302-308.Taylor & Francis Group
Whitehead, T. L. “Basic classical ethnographic research methods: secondary data analysis, fieldwork, observation/participation observation, and informal and semi-structured interviewing.” Cultural ecology of health and change, ethnographically informed community and cultural assessment systems (EICCARS) working papers series(2005).