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16 - Indigenous Lives, Visual Autobiographies

from Part III - Native American Renaissance (Post-1960s)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Melanie Benson Taylor
Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
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As part of the ongoing project of decolonization and cultural critique, indigenous artists and writers take on the role of autobiographers, ethnographers, historians, activists, and visionaries, often in the form of visual autobiography. Their storytelling crosses fields of study (art practice, history, anthropology, and literature), media (text, photographs, drawings, paintings, and maps), as well as geographies and cultures. Collectively they bear witness to transgenerational trauma, challenge official settler-colonial myths, share tribal stories and epistemologies as well as personal narratives, and insist on indigenous presence, witness, and continuity. This essay traces indigenous visual self-narrative forms from pre-contact pictography to ledger book art to their adaptation into contemporary modes as well as the indigenization of Western forms such as comics and memoir. Two streams—one arising from and referring to earlier pictography and a second arising from Western literary or artistic traditions, but with indigenous inflections—are discussed.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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