Author:India Young (Princeton University Art Museum)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the Indigenous pedagogy of Northwest Coast prints. Artists produce prints as part of traditional arts practices, which are inherently performative, to convey coastal values about heritage, history, spirituality, and politics to non-Native audiences.
Paper long abstract:
Northwest Coast Native artists today are fond of saying, "Our language has no word for art." They continue to talk about how art used to be everywhere, embedded in all belonging and participant everyday. They point to the wealth of cultural practices that employ highly stylized objects. Halibut hooks, adze handles, spindle whorls, fishing weirs, and berry baskets combine function with form. These works may be construed as decorative arts until compared to those made for political and spiritual spaces. Frontlets, button blankets, dance screens, and raven's rattles are fashioned in the same ways and decorated with the same aesthetic principles. Yet, these objects convey specific kinds of knowledge or history within highly structured social contexts. To make use of any such object activates a performative assertion of a particular authority and such objects function to reinscribe common knowledge. On the Northwest Coast, objects carry meaning and are active participants in social constructs and contracts. This paper argues that Native art prints occupy a unique space as cultural conveyers. Coastal artists conceptualize how prints can be made to work for and with cultural worldviews. In developing the medium artists embedded prints within traditional arts practices to perform a specific function; prints communicate coastal values about heritage, history, spirituality, and politics to non-Native audiences. When coastal artists speak about the roles prints play in their practices certain key words reoccur, namely "education" and "cultural knowledge." This paper explores the Indigenous pedagogy of Northwest Coast prints.
Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art