Definitions aren’t permanent

Pink has always been a feminine colour. Except, it wasn’t. In 19th century England, while men wore red uniforms, boys routinely wore pink.

American boy wearing a ‘masculine’ outfit

Major chords in music are known to be happy. They form the basis for songs such as Twinkle Twinkle, Jingle Bells and Happy Birthday. But the same notes of the major chord sound sad when a bugler plays them in a cemetery.

Mexican cuisine is synonymous with coriander (cilantro) and Argentina with beef steaks. But neither coriander nor cattle are native to the Americas. Europeans introduced them to the continent in the last four hundred years.

The symbols that define our culture – gender colours, musical taste and choice of cuisine – seem set in stone. But they aren’t. Like drifting continents, they move beneath our feet even as we don’t notice them.

Artists know this. That is why they break with tradition and combine things in unprecedented ways.

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