Christine Okerlund
14 March 2019

Empowering Vision, Visualizing Power: Anishinaabe Women's Arts in Birchbark

LECTURE | 14 March | 15:30 - 17:30 | RCMC Gerbrandszaal

As part of her Distinguished FEL Research Fellowship at the RCMC, Ruth Phillips will give a lecture on Native American Indigenous arts. In this talk she will explore how these arts evidence the active presence and agency of what Gerald Vizenor has termed “survivance” in the face of colonial oppression. Under these conditions, how can we look at these kinds of practices as forms of refusal and resistance? 


This talk examines the dramatic transition from geometric to floral designs that occurred in the Native American Indigenous arts during the middle decades of the 19thcentury in response to assimilationist and missionary pressures and new artistic models. Ruth will discuss examples of birchbark containers made by Anishinaabe women from the Great Lakes region since pre-contact times—examples of which are to be found in the collections of the Museum Volkenkunde—. She argues that the cosmological and spiritual references of the earlier geometric designs continued in floral iconography despite the growing commercialization of the genre within souvenir markets. 

Image: Christine Okerlund, late 20th c bark box, Chippewa, RV-6145-11