Prison of images: Seizing the means of representation

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Alexander, Don
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The position occupied by Native people in white culture is similar to that of women in patriarchy. From cigar store Indian, to cowboy and Indian movies, to the "noble savage," Native people live in a prison of images not of their own making. This carries over into the world of art where Indian artists face the pressures of turning out hack work for tourists on the one side, and paintings and sculpture (as with the Inuit) which are sufficiently 'primitive' for the art critics, on the other. But there is a growing movement to take back the means of self-representation. One example of this is the new Native arts journal, Akwekon, produced by the people at the Mohawk Reserve in upstate New York. The editors of Akwekon and many of the artists they've spoken with are concerned with two major issues - how to get out of the ghetto of 'Indian' art, be it tourist or primitive, and how to embrace new methods and materials while preserving the Native message and carrying it to a wider audience.
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