In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now

Frances Dorenbaum
Minneapolis Institute of Art
October 22, 2023 –  January 14, 2024
In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now, exhibition view, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2024.
Photo: Sheila Regan
Minneapolis Institute of Art
October 22, 2023 –  January 14, 2024
As social and political polarities continue to widen, it is as urgent as ever to devote space to holding multiplicity. Art histories and museum practices, in both content and institutional governance, are no exception. This appeal necessitates an enduring commitment to decolonization, which as a methodology requires trust and collaboration. What might it look like, then, in an exhibition, to understand decolonization not as a buzzword or means to further division but as a coming together, a sharing of space and leadership, and a dedication to looking in different directions and building out a multi-perspectival history of existence?

In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now, presented just across the border at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, offered a refreshing take on tackling this challenge. The exhibition centred Indigenous worldviews through lens-based work by 130 artists from across Turtle Island (including both Canada and the United States) — a major feat of collaboration by curators Jaida Grey Eagle (Oglala Lakota), Jill Ahlberg Yohe, and Casey Riley, along with an Indigenous Curatorial Council that included some of the exhibiting artists. It is particularly fitting that photography was the featured medium, as artist and Indigenous Curatorial Council member Dr. Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora Nation) has explained that “lens-based practices defined the twentieth century, and the emergence of Indigenous photographers was key in the current explosion of re-interpretation of pejorative photographic representations.”1 1 - Dr. Jolene Rickard, “Returning Home: Indigenous Art Creating the Path,” in Becoming Our Future: Global Indigenous Curatorial Practice, eds. Dr. Julie Nagam, Carly Lange, and Megan Tamati-Quennell (Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2020), 19. In other words, photography has played a central role in both limiting and expanding views of identity and culture.

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