The history of Indigenous Peoples performing cultural dances and practices for international and colonial audiences is an important part of Indigenous art, generally, and performance art, specifically. The Indigenous performers known as ‘Indians’ faced the conundrum of maintaining traditional cultural practices by performing them on stage while also having that performance fulfill the desires of a colonial imaginary. In Sovereign Acts, the artists contend with the legacy of colonial representations. Their work returns to the multi-levelled history of ‘Performing Indian’ to recuperate the erased and objectified performer as an ancestor, an artist, and an Indigenous subject. It also means there are Indigenous traditions of performance that feed contemporary art and form an alternative art history.
The artists in Sovereign Acts are not just defining themselves from in/outside colonial histories but also from within ever-changing traditions of family, home, people, and territory. Performance is an act of cultural and political resistance as well as of remembrance and commemoration. It offers glimpses of a forgotten past, and uses creative fiction as a force against colonial narratives of capture, savagery, loss and disappearance. A truly Sovereign Act.
Curated by Wanda Nanibush
Circulated by the Art Museum at the University of Toronto