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Hear from visiting scholar Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds (Diné/Navajo), whose research focuses on contemporary Native American/Indigenous art, theater, and performance. The talk is presented at the Ackland as part of the Art History Lecture Series organized by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Art and Art History. This talk is co-sponsored by the Department of American Studies. Space is limited; register below for a free ticket.

“Indigenous Performance Politics: An Analysis of Works by Kent Monkman, Spiderwoman Theater Company, Rebecca Belmore and James Luna”

By internationalizing the debate concerning Indigeneity and decolonial thought, as well as examining the basis of North American multiculturalism in the art world, my research foregrounds a complex understanding of gender, sexualities, and race in line with moving away from a heteropatriarchal understanding imposed by colonialist and anthropological thinking. In this talk, I focus on four artists/artists groups to offer new interpretations that question how we understand the colonial past by using images, artworks, and performances in strategic and interventionist ways that constitute acts of decolonization. Following Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies (1999), it is my contention that decolonial theories and processes are inherent to the struggles of Indigenous Peoples worldwide and intersect with one another on local, national, and global levels. Therefore, going beyond previous frameworks, such as postmodern and postcolonial theories, implies a renegotiation of the readings and analyses of Native American/First Nation’s artists/artists’ groups, and their works, in ways that problematize Indigenous erasure in favor of Indigenous presence and futurity.

Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds is a citizen of the Diné/Navajo Nation. In 2022, she completed her PhD at Middlesex University, London, focused on contemporary Native American/Indigenous visual artists and theater and performance studies. Recent essays were published in Artforum International, Wired Italia, and Art Review magazine and in Tony Fisher and Eve Katsouraki (eds.), Beyond Failure: New Essays on the Cultural History of Failure in Theatre and Performance, Routledge, 2018. See her website https://dinehwriter.art. Ketchum-Heap of Birds has lectured at Artists Space in NYC, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Nanyang University in Singapore, and Skype/Zoom lectures for the Barcelona Facultat De Geografia; Història Universitat De Barcelona; Museu D’art Contemporani De Barcelona (MACBA) and Shape: A Virtual Artist Residency sponsored by Vinegar Projects: An Artists-Run Space. Ketchum-Heap of Birds also curated Suffer, Dance, Stand: Native Survival with Edgar Heap of Birds, Douglas Miles, and Warren Realrider in 2022 at OK #1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Ketchum-Heap of Birds currently teaches at the University of Central Oklahoma and is board president of Spiderwoman Theater Company (the longest running Native American feminist theater group in the USA).

Past Forward: Native American Art from Gilcrease Museum is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Gilcrease Museum.

The Ackland’s presentation of this exhibition has been made possible by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation, and Jeff and Liesl Wilke ’92 (JD).

Exhibition-related public programs are supported by a Spark the Arts Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Additional support for the Ackland’s presentation of Past Forward: Native American Art from Gilcrease Museum is provided by Kerry D. Bird & Ken Gahagan.


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Additional Event Details

Sponsored by

  • Gilcrease Museum
  • American Federation of Arts
  • Spark the Arts
  • North Carolina Arts Council