AMBUSH! Arts & Culture
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
― Émile Zola
― Émile Zola
Feature: The Blue Whale Challenge
by Alizay Chavez '21
The Blue Whale Challenge, also known as, the Blue Whale Game is a suicide game causing many young deaths. The game lasts about 50 days and is runned by a team of curators that tells players what they have to do. After finishing a task they players must share a photo with the curators. On the 50th day players must commit suicide, At first the tasks are easy, but as time goes on it gets harder and harder (Express Web Desk, 2017). No one actually know how the players and curators keep in contact. Some sites say that they use instagram and facebook to contact curators. They use hashtags like #bluewhalechallenge or #i_am_whale (Express Web Desk, 2017). Other sites say they use the website VK.com. Once the game begins there is no way out. Some tasks players are asked to do is to carve a quote on their arm or hand. Even drawing a whale on a piece of paper. The 30th task to the 50th task get darker (Dwilson, 2017). At first many people believed that the blue whale challenge was a hoax, but many are now starting to believe it. At least 4 deaths were caused by the blue whale challenge in the United States. Outside of the United States the blue whale challenge caused about 130 deaths (Dwilson, 2017).
The Blue Whale Challenge originated from Russia. A 21 year old man by the name of Philipp Budeikin founded the blue whale challenge. The Blue Whale Challenge started in the year 2013 on the website VK.com and was used to attract children.This past year Budeikin was charged with at least 16 schoolgirl deaths caused by the game. He was sentenced with 3 years in prison (Mann, 2017). After being asked about pushing the girls to their death, Budeikin’s response was, “Yes, I truly was doing that. Don’t worry, you’ll understand they were dying happy. I was giving them what they didn’t have in real life; warmth, understanding connections.” He also said that he was “cleansing society” and that he was getting rid of “biological waste.” According to psychologists, “[these] young girls have most likely fallen in love with Budeikin because they were lacking love in their own lives from their parents and [he] provided them with the attention [they needed]” (Mann, 2017). A 26 year old was also taken into custody for at least 30 teenage girls deaths, On November 4th a 17 year old boy was rescued from a railroad. He was trying to kill himself due to the blue whale challenge. The police found a notebook filled with many different ways that the boy plan to kill himself. For example they found a page where it said that he wanted to hang himself (Mann, 2017). The police all around the world have been reporting other cases like this.
Isaiah Gonzalez a 15 year old boy killed himself in July of 2017. He lived streamed his suicide on facebook. It can still be seen on the internet. Gonzalez hung himself in his closet. He used a shoe to hold up his phone. No one saw his suicide coming. His family and friends described him as a caring and sweet person. He had just joined JROTC and was having a great time(Dwilson, 2017). A 16 year old girl from Atlanta Georgia also killed herself because of the blue whale challenge. Her family now realized that the pictures she was drawing gave them some hints that she was playing the game. She use to draw whales for her art classes. Her mother also said that she was doing weird things like sitting on the roof (Dwilson, 2017). Chase a 12 year old boy was another victim of the blue whale challenge. He took his life in August of 2017. His family loved him to death, but he was bullied a lot in school. As the law enforcement were investigating his death they found out that two other girls from his school were playing the game as well. They are now getting the help that they need (Dwilson, 2017). Natasha Cadena was the oldest of the group that were killed in the United States. She was 32 when she died. She committed suicide in July. The people around her said that she did hurtful things to herself. She used to cut herself and video taped it. She would send those videos to a woman named “Loretta” a woman from France. Family members also said that Cadena also sent “Loretta” money. Cadena hung herself and that is where police found her phone. This is how the police found out about “Loretta” (Dwilson, 2017). Some victims that weren’t from the United States was Rina Palenkova. Palenkova had taken a selfie right before stepping in front of a train (Dwilson, 2017). A student who was participating in the blue whale challenge, but was saved by his family said, “the manipulation was so deeply psychological that it was hard to say no” (Dwilson, 2017). All of the victims of the blue whale challenge have been manipulated in some way.
Here are some signs that most players and victims have shown that they are playing the game. If someone you know starts sharing posts with these following hashtags: #f57, #f40, or #imawhale. Beware if they start looking for a whale. That is a huge sign that they want to join the game. If someone wakes up at 4:20 to do unusual tasks is another sign. Self harming is another sign. If they carve yes into their body is one of the things that their “whale” might ask them to do. Also if they all of sudden start standing on the edge of a roof or a bridge. If they are physically hurting themselves can also be a sign, but that one is tricky. With that sign they could be playing the game or there is another reason to why they are hurting themselves (Dwilson, 2017). Some of these signs could be a sign that someone is playing the game.. For example 4:20 is normally associated with weed. The sign about them doing weird things at 4:20 could also mean that they like weed. If they do more than one of these signs that is a huge clue that they may be playing the blue whale challenge, so beware of these signs (Dwilson, 2017). You might be able to save someone.
According to psychologists teenagers are more vulnerable to these types of challenges because it is on the internet . They feel like it is a place that they can do anything. There is no restriction to what they do when they are on social media or any other part of the internet (IANS, 2017). Teenagers normally love taking risks. The Blue whale challenge gives them an opportunity to take huge risks. Some teenagers have really low self-esteem. The Blue Whale challenge helps them feel like they are worth something. Their curator shows them the love and attention they need for their own survival (IANS, 2017). To teenagers that have low self-esteem the Blue Whale challenge gives them a source of inspiration and that is why they would do anything for their “whale.” These teenagers are lost in a place where they are vulnerable . They are also lonely and crying out for the attention that they want. The “whales” give them the attention that they need (IANS, 2017). One way that psychologist are telling parents to do is to talk to your children when they are vulnerable. They also want parents to talk to their children about the dangers of challenges like the Blue Whale challenge.
There are many opinions about the Blue Whale challenge. Many believe that it is real and others believe that it is a myth. According to the website xnspy the blue whale challenge is true. According to them the number of suicides caused by the challenge is increasing. They also said that at least 130 deaths in Russia are linked to the Blue Whale Challenge, but according to the investigation there are no reliable links to the game. According to Radio Free Europe, the teens that committed suicide “were simply attracted to this subculture (XNspy, 2017).” This might be true, but what if they were to scared to stop the game? Once you start the game there is no stopping it. According to Sarah Elsesser the author of the article, Is ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ real? What Parents Need to Know Now, said that even if the Blue Whale challenge is a hoax, it shines a light on the way social media influences young teenagers to do things that aren’t always right. There is no clear evidence that the Blue Whale challenge is real.
Here are some useful links for you to use if you are struggling with mental health issues:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Mental Health Hotline
Crisis Text line
Text HOME to 741741
Feature: The Fake Native American Jewelry Trade
by Sage Addington '18
Wu Gaun-Zhong once said, “If you plagiarize others’ techniques, you steal their emotions and tell your spectators a lie with your work. Works as such equal zero.” In the art world, art thievery is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome. When someone steals your art you are at a loss of credit, appreciation, and depending, a loss of income. For many native artists, their artwork is their economic and cultural livelihood. When your art is your livelihood and your livelihood is stolen and undermined by cheap imitations, it is devastating.
Jewelry is not the market it used to be, people do not care about owning authentic jewelry. When I was a little girl, I remember my grandma making jewelry in her crowded little bedroom. I remember watching her and accidentally kicking over tins of polished stone beads, and then having to re-organize them. I remember being my grandma’s little helper and attempting to sell her products at the flea markets in Gallup, Window Rock, and Yatahee. I remember being awful at pushing merchandise, but my grandma being pretty good at it. For this feature, I asked my grandma why she had stopped making and selling her crafts and she told me,
“Jewelry just doesn’t sell.”
I remember mostly selling clothes and used toys. My grandma sat down beside me in the dining room and explained that she loved making jewelry, but even her friends who always made a killing, were struggling. In her words,
“you can buy plastic that looks exactly the same.”
In an awful way, she is right. Why drop $60 on a pair of earrings that you could have for $5?
Cheap blue plastic can replace the sky-blue turquoise stones the Navajo once thought were shattered pieces of the rich colored sky. Zinc can replace beautifully molded sterling silver. Instead of authentic stones and metals hand crafted by the hands of hard working artisans, you can easily find machine-made imitation carnelian, coral, onyx, copper, and silver. However, plastic cannot replace the food one needs to eat to survive and the bills that need to be paid. Plastic cannot replace the tired hands that gently place the important stones in metal holds. Plastic cannot replace a culture’s integrity behind an artwork. Plastic cannot replace a culture.
Plagiarizing Native American jewelry and design is appropriation and steals from already struggling communities. Appropriation is defined as the act of stealing something for one’s own use, without the owner’s permission. Artists who work very hard and are deeply connected with their culture must be insulted by cheap replicas, made without the same soul they put into their work. The stealing of designs from tribes has caused communities that depend on the jewelry trade to struggle immensely. Approximately $1 billion a year in fake Indian arts and crafts is stolen from Indigenous peoples. According to the Indian Country Media Network, approximately up to 80% of indigenous art on the market is FAKE.
According to an article by the New York Times, Brazilians, Nigerians and Pakistanis have weaved copies of Apache, Navajo, and Pima baskets. Reportedly Mexicans weave imitation Navajo blankets and the Chinese carve animal fetishes. Thai workers make imitation jewelry, and Filipino workers “specialize” in Hopi kachina dolls and Zuni Inlaid jewelry. Most Indian art that is on the market is not even made by Indigenous people.
The United States government has tried to make an Act to help ensure the buyers of Indian arts and crafts are getting authentic products, calling it the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. The Act entails that it is illegal to misrepresent a product as made by an Indigenous American if it is not. In order for a product to be marketed using the term “Indian,” “American Indian,” “Native American,” etc. the creator must be either a member of a state or federally-recognized tribe, or be an individual that is certified by a tribe as a nonmember Indian artisan. If someone is caught having violated the law, their first violation could end up in fines up to $250,000 and jail terms up to five years. Repeated offenses can face fines up to $1 million and a sentence of 15 years in jail.
Although it is against the law, many native artist still have to fight hard to protect their art and name. A recent case in October hits close to home. The owner of a few Old Town Albuquerque Jewelry Stores pleaded guilty to fraudulently selling “Native American-Made” jewelry, that was actually Filipino-Made. Nael Ali, owner of the shop, reportedly sold numerous pieces of fake Native American jewelry to undercover officers such as rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants; he had been representing them as by Native Americans from tribes such as the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo. Luckily, the undercover officers were able to bust the faux jewelry handler. The two stores Ali owned that were busted for fraudulent jewelry were Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul. As stated earlier, countries that aren’t American are creating the counterfeits.
The communities hit the hardest by the fake native jewelry trade are the Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni tribes. The Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni combined account for 90% of all Southwest Indian jewelry sold. In communities like Zuni, the jewelry trade is a main source of income. I attempted to get ahold of the Zuni trading post Turquoise Village and ask them a few questions, but was told that they are currently off work for the holidays. I wanted to know how many artists the business employs, whether or not is is hard to spot fake arts and crafts, whether or not counterfeits have negatively impacted the market, and what role jewelry makers play in Zuni’s community, economically. Unfortunately, my questions were not able to answered, but I was able to talk to Gina Bowekaty briefly. I was told that since Turquoise Village is located in the center of the village, the business employs many artists, and the manager Elaine has an easier time telling the difference between real and counterfeit art.
Native arts and crafts are sold everywhere from tourist stores in gas stations, to art galleries, so it can be hard determining where to buy authentic jewelry and know that your money is going straight to the artist. It helps to buy jewelry from an established dealer who can give you a written guarantee or written verification of authenticity. If possible, get a receipt that includes all the “need to know” information like the metal used, stones used, and whether or not it was handmade by an Indian artisan. Some native artists sell inexpensive souvenir types, but typically authentic, high-quality jewelry can be expensive. As far as appearance goes, well-crafted jewelry does not have wavering lines or lopsided designs. Designs that are often stamped onto silver come out crisp, but imitations are often blurry. Make sure to look for an artist’s “hallmark,” symbol, or signature, as it is used to identify their work.
If you come into contact with some Indian art that is not authentic, what do you do? The right thing to do, is not ignore it. Authentic native arts and crafts compete daily with the fraudulent ones and the purchasement of faux art not only harms one particular seller, it harms the overall Indian art/craft market, and threatens the livelihood of artisans and craftspeople. Plagiarized counterfeits hurt small communities in large ways. Plus, wouldn’t you be witnessing, or even supporting a crime? The Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) receives and refers valid complaints about violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act to the FBI and to the Department of Justice for legal action. To file a complaint under the Act, call the Indian Arts and Crafts Board or the U.S Department of Interior at 1-888-ART-FAKE (1-888-278-3253). You can write the Indian Arts and Crafts Board at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1849 C Street, N.W., MS 2528-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240. If you choose to complain to the IACB, you should include:
Stolen jewelry designs are worse than tank tops with “Navajo rug designs” on them, and hipsters dancing with headdresses at music festivals. Too many people are being ripped off, and too many people are losing respect for handcrafted jewelry. Jewelry making is a delicate art and is spiritual to some; for something of that importance to be desecrated, it genuinely hurts. For the sake of people trying to make an honest living and for the sake of people doing what they love, when you buy Indian arts and crafts, check to see if they are authentic, and report the seller if otherwise.
Last Week's Poll Results!
Last week we asked Ambush! Poll takers if they knew the origin of Christmas and 100% of survey takers said they did.