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Kent Monkman At The ROM

Appropriating Western styles of portraiture for new perspectives on Indigenous identity


FEB 26, 2023 | ISSUE 11

From "Being Legendary" - Courtesy of the ROM

Kent Monkman’s recent exhibit, Being Legendary, recontextualizes a variety of surprising objects from the Royal Ontario Museum’s collections, alongside paintings and sculptural art pieces made by the artist’s studio. A member of Fisher River Cree Nation, Monkman uses the framework of Indigenous cultural specificity to call attention to the way historical narratives of Canada have been written from a settler-colonial perspective. This dominating perspective has been cloaked as objective and universal for centuries by suppressing Indigenous peoples’ histories. Drawing inspiration from Cree story-telling traditions such as âcimowina – stories that carry knowledge – Monkman challenges Euro-Canadian narratives of history and amplifies Indigenous stories and knowledge from within the museum.

As with his 2017 exhibit, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, which sought to reinsert Indigenous voices into the past 150 years of Canadian history, Monkman appropriates and subverts Western art historical conventions...