Tsēma Igharas (Re)naturalize No. 4 (Recoil), 2015.
Photo : Jonathan Igharas, courtesy of the artist

I Am Woman: The Decolonial Process of Indigenous Feminist Art

Léa Toulouse
Creating aligns us with our ancestors, as we engage in artistic or creative processes, we disconnect ever so slightly from the dominant system and connect to a way of being based on doing, rather than blind consumption.
— Leanne Simpson

First Nations art is an act of resistance against the oppressive forces that result in marginality, especially of Indigenous women.1 1 - Gilles Deleuze states, “There is a fundamental affinity between a work of art and an act of resistance. It has something to do with information and communication as an act of resistance.” Gilles Deleuze, What is the Creative Act, 1987, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tmNNe5YTnTwr8itJaUrXnnwWBpkRx0qbTh4ZNsMtclQ/edit? hl=en According to Anishinaabe author Leanne Simpson, a form of governance or resurgence is deployed through the act of creating. She calls for resurgence as a way to reinvest in our/Indigenous ways of being and regenerate our political and intellectual traditions, including our artistic and performance-based traditions. Considering the growing debate about Indigenous alternatives to colonial methods of forming a government and directing a nation, as well as the myriad decolonization projects across the country, it is important to reiterate pre-colonial matriarchal modes of seeing and being. It is equally important to make visible and celebrate Indigenous accomplishments in order to counteract the unyielding repetition and reification of the violence that Indigenous people, especially Indigenous women, have endured and continue to endure. In Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back, Simpson suggests that methods of resurgence such as storytelling can be a core aspect of decolonization: “Storytelling becomes a lens through which we can envision our way out of cognitive imperialism.”2 2 - Leanne Simpson, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence (Winnipeg: ARP, 2011), 33. Referring to Rebecca Belmore, a well-known Anishinaabe performance artist, Simpson writes that Belmore disputes the narrative of normalized dispossession and intervenes as an Anishinaabe presence, not as a victim, but as a strong non-authoritarian woman. “Indigenous artists like Belmore interrogate the space of empire, envisioning and performing ways out of this space.”

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This article also appears in the issue 90 - Feminisms

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