Fake Art

Discourse data reporter Francesca Fionda and her team examined more than 260 Indigenous-themed items from 40 souvenir shops in Vancouver over five months.

Art is an integral part of Indigenous cultures: an expression of sovereignty, a record of history and law and, for many, a source of income. What happens when that art is threatened by cultural appropriation? This series explores “fake art” or Indigenous-themed art in the tourism industry that’s created without any collaboration with Indigenous communities.

How can we compete with cheap fake art from overseas, Indigenous business owners ask?

‘I’ve seen these poor carvers that are trying to carry on their culture, and they’ve got to compete with something a quarter the cost that comes in from Indonesia,’ says Shain Jackson.

Stores commit to removing inauthentic Indigenous souvenirs after The Discourse investigation

Indigenous artists ‘should have their royalties,’ says one store owner who says she’s committed to selling authentic items.

Why aren’t fake Indigenous art makers going to jail in Canada?

A groundbreaking case in the U.S. sent two people to jail last year for misrepresenting items as genuine Navajo art. Why don’t we have a law like that here?

Fake Indigenous art not Indigenous at all, artists say

Our artwork is ‘the way we write down our history, our worldview, our laws. It really is a written language,’ Shain Jackson says.

Here’s how we investigated Vancouver’s Indigenous-souvenir industry

Details on the stores we visited, the samples we took and the manufacturers we called to determine which products were authentic.

Fake Indigenous art is a real problem in Vancouver stores

Investigation uncovers some knock-off Indigenous art is sold in 75% of Vancouver souvenir shops.

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