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The Muse

Natural disasters, war, or economic distress have been constant causes for migration throughout the centuries. Yet, a small privileged part of society has experienced a different type of migration: one fueled not by external factors but by inner urges of self-discovery. Such is the case with Paul Gaugin and Mircea Eliade, who left their home countries for different cultures. On their journeys, they both found inspiration from local women who acted as muses. These interactions lead to the creation of some of their most influential works of art.

Then again, this highly romanticized point of view only tells one side of the story. Looking at the broader pictures brings into discussion colonization and cultural appropriation. The real Maytrei was highly critical of Eliade’s portrayal of her while Gaugin’s Tahitian wife was only 13 when they got married. Both artists have been subsequently accused of cultural appropriation through their art.

Even though there are no muses involved in most cases, architects practicing in cultures they don’t originate from have been a growing phenomenon. Counteracted at times by PR familiar catch phrases such as ”act locally think globally,” the underlying question remains: how can you responsibly act upon a culture you’re not part of.


[1] Mircea Eliade and Maytreyi Devi (1930)

[2] The seed of Areoi, Paul Gaugin (1892)

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