ian maclean on l’invention du sauvage


Ian McLean, ‘Reinventing the Savage’, Third Text 26, 5 (2012).

The noble aims of ‘Exhibitions: L’Invention du Sauvage’ (‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’) at the Musée du quai Branly were not enough to counter the museum’s primitivist postmodern architecture or the exhibition’s curatorial strategy. Presenting a large number of archival images, as if documents of a barbaric age, along with declamatory wall texts that outline the sins of colonialism might satisfy the guilty conscience of the postcolonial European imagination, but it does nothing to speak for the agency of those mainly indigenous performers whom the exhibition showcases. Lost in the exhibition are the ways in which these Indigenous performers in Europe’s capitals shaped the modern imaginary and sought to articulate their own modernity.

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