What is wrong with this picture?: Indigenous artists contest the "place" of Indigenous people in Canada

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Loh, Paula
Identity , Sakahàn International Indigenous Art Exhibition , Stereotypes , Normativity of Whiteness , Canada , Indigenous Artists
Indigenous artists challenge cultural stereotypes by creating images that contest preconceived notions of the "place" of Indigenous people held by the Canadian population at large. This thesis research explores the question of identity and stereotypes and how this is transgressed through the work of contemporary Indigenous artists in Canada to adjust the position of Indigenous people in the social hierarchy that controls their "place." Many Indigenous artists incorporate political statements into their artworks that challenge the ongoing stereotypes that assign Indigenous people to their "place"; the political commentary is often the only aspect of their work that identifies it as "Indigenous," with a variety of techniques, media, and styles used in the creation of the art, reflecting the individuality of the artists. The normativity of whiteness and its impact on ideology and politics is examined, both in historical and contemporary times. Hegemonic images have promoted the Eurocentric concept that the White "race" is the norm and the standard by which others should be judged and put in their "place," contributing to the objectification of Indigenous peoples and the creation of the stereotypical "Indian," such as the "noble savage," and the "ignoble savage." Images created by contemporary Indigenous artists transgress these cultural stereotypes. The re-labeling and marketing of Indigenous "artifacts" as "art" reflects changing attitudes in the value placed on the work of Indigenous artists, transforming many from anonymous artisans into renowned artists. This recognition as creators of art provides opportunities for Indigenous artists to make public statements, with their work being widely displayed under the classification of contemporary art. The Sakahàn International Indigenous Art Exhibition held by the National Gallery of Canada in 2013 embodies the momentum that is building within the Indigenous artistic community; Sakahàn is the largest exhibition of any kind mounted by the National Gallery, to date, and is also the largest worldwide exhibition of Indigenous art. Identity is constantly changing in relation to events and circumstances; as the place of Indigenous people continues to be contested by artists, it will edge further on the continuum towards being "in place" instead of "out of place."
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