Mimicry subverts settler colonialism: Stephanie Haney, ‘Mimicry as a Method of Subversion in Indigenous Art’, Canvas Journal, 2022


Excerpt: As outlined above, mimicry in Indigenous artwork is used to undermine the colonial state and settlers by discounting its prestige and mocking its artistic integrity. Mimicry is achieved by utilising traditionally European materials or stylistic elements to express Indigenous beliefs and cultures. This enables Indigenous artists to re-establish their art as civilised and enlightened, subsequently normalising the European equivalent. Furthermore, this allows the artist to preserve and adequately depict Indigenous identity by inserting Indigenous figures and entities into Eurocentric landscapes. In their work, Monkman and Belmore do both things. Each artist uses characteristically European mediums to reimagine settler art through an Indigenous lens, specifically from the Renaissance era. The Renaissance is an epoch that reflects the pervasive and institutionalised Western bias within art history.13 This is because art that emerged from this period connoted a level of sophistication and prestige that non-Western art could not achieve under the dominant Eurocentric aesthetic. Artistic practices of non-Western countries during the Renaissance era were typically marginalised,14 as their styles were deemed “primitive” and inferior. This type of Eurocentric narcissism is also undoubtedly reflected in settler colonialism: propelled by the idea that European society was the most civilised, enlightened, and, therefore, worthy of the most land. The status of Renaissance art reinforces a binary of “civilised” and “uncivilised” cultures. Thus, mimicry of art from this era can be conceptualised as an attempt to subvert the hierarchy.

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