A new exhibit called “In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now” opened at Mia on Oct. 21. The exhibit was curated by and consists of Indigenous artists and photographers, and it explores the impact of Indigenous photographers on the art of photography.
The exhibit displays three major themes: “A World of Relations,” “Always Leaders” and “Always Present” throughout an enormous eight rooms in the Target Gallery. The pieces are comprised of photographs in the traditional sense as well as creatively displayed photos, like the photographs woven to make a grander picture in “Custer and the Cowgirl with Her Gun” and a miniature scene with family photos on a tiny set called “[Diorama 8]”. The photographers are from geographically and culturally diverse First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Native American people. This diversity is represented in the diversity of scenes and portraits throughout the exhibit.
The first thematic section, “A World of Relations,” explores the interconnectedness of the world, including families. In “Clan,” four white dresses hang from the ceiling before photos of four generations of women wearing those dresses, a work that developed when the artist Faye HeavyShield (Kainaiwa Nation, Blackfoot Confederacy Blood Reserve) came across a 1920s portrait of her grandmother.
The second section, “Always Leaders,” demonstrates the leadership that Indigenous people have shown across many struggles including protecting the environment and human and civil rights. The pain and fight for justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is evident in this section.
The third section, “Always Present,” celebrates Indigenous people throughout time in a powerful act of taking back the narrative. White people have historically weaponized photography against Indigenous people, taking photographs without consent or care, and this exhibit puts this storytelling power in the hands of Indigenous photographers.
The “In Our Hands” exhibit joins the Jim Denomie (Ojibwe, Lac Courte Oreilles Band) exhibit, the Tia Keobounpheng (Finnish and Sámi) exhibit, and the Native American Arts exhibit on the second floor of the Mia, making this entire wing of Mia a display of Indigenous arts and artists.
“In Our Hands” is open during regular Mia hours through Jan. 14, 2024. Admission to the exhibit costs $20. Admission to Mia is free.