Challenging the ideology of representation: contemporary First Nations art in Canada




Longman, Mary

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Since colonial contact in North America in 1492, First Nations identity, history and culture has been displaced, erased and fictionalized by dominant colonial representations. The long history of dominance of these representations has embedded them in the consciousness of both the colonizers and the colonized, and effectively suppressed and controlled First Nations history, culture and identity. This dissertation examines how First Nations artists have resisted and critically analyzed the representation of their identity, history, and culture from the 1970s until today. Four key themes that First Nations artists have identified in the past forty years are stereotypical representations, exclusion of representation, western framing of representation, and the appropriation of representation. The research in the study employs a new method titled Ab/Originography, that is an analysis of literary, narrative and artistic accounts that come directly from the `original' source. This approach is grounded in a post-colonial analytic methodology that explores the Egocentric ideological underpinnings of representations of First Nations covering the period of colonial contact up until today, As a researcher, I propose that deconstruction and reconstruction must come directly from the First Nations voice and epistemological framework in order to give balance and validity to First Nations representation. To that end, forty artworks arc reviewed in this text with interviews of six First Nations artists. As well, I also include my own narrative, chronicling of art production in relation to my lived experience as a First Nations artist. The overall aim of this research is to raise public awareness about the predominant role of colonial ideology in the representation of First Nations peoples so that distorted constructions, habitual recycling and western ideological projections will diminish. Vltimately. this deconstructivc process provides a new space in the literary canon for the reconstruction of First Nations representation by First Nations people, especially as it pertains to First Nations art. This body of research is intended ultimately to contribute to a profound cultural and political transformation in the perception and representation of First Nations. Through this deconstruction of representation and the revealing of issues relevant to First Nations and First Nations artists in Canada, a foundation has been laid to rewrite art *story from the First Nations perspective.



native, art, representation, ideology