October 13, 2011

Critiquing the "Decolonize" posters

Adrienne Keene critiques some "Decolonize" posters in Representing the Native Presence in the "Occupy Wall Street" Narrative:

[I]n my opinion, this image only serves to further stereotype Native people and present mis-information about the land which is currently being double-occupied. We've got the red and black motif, the Edward Curtis stoic Indian warrior with the eagle feather and buckskin--who's clearly from a Plains community, with a buffalo, an arrowhead, and a red power fist. Reads like a list of "10 things to include to make it recognizably Indian."

Yes it acknowledges Wall St. is on "occupied Algonquin land"--but one problem: Manhattan is Lenape land. So we've got the stereotypical Plains imagery to represent a movement that is taking place on the East Coast. Everyone already forgets that there are Nations and Indigenous Peoples in the East, and this just continues to marginalize and erase their ongoing presence in their homelands.
These are all valid points. On the other hand, the design (minus the stereotypes) is attractive and effective.

I'd say I have mixed feelings about this poster. Could be better, could be worse.

This at least has a Lenape woman (Jennie Bob, picture from 1915), and I like that the message is clear at the bottom: "Occupied since 1625"--because, let's be honest, I really don't think a lot of non-Native people even know what "decolonize" means, which makes it easier for them to dismiss the underlying issues. But, it's still a historic photo, which could be argued puts the issue in the past. I still like it way more than the original (again, if you know the source, let me know).True, "decolonize" may not be a clear message to most people, although it is to me. But "Take Back Wall Street," as if that's enough to solve Native problems, is a limited message. It's asking for a small subset of what "decolonize" is asking for.

Also, I don't think "Occupied Since 1625" is clear and compelling. People may figure out that that's when Wall Street was founded, or they may scratch their heads. And what about the previous 133 years? For Natives, the message they want to get out is "Occupied since 1492," not 1625.

True, the Indian woman isn't stereotypical, but I don't find her calm face or the cool teal color effective. There might be a poster where her image would be the best choice, but this isn't it.
This poster comes from Oakland, and I like the juxtaposition of the current Oakland skyline with the Ohlone tribal member. No Plains warrior here.Right, and I'd go further. Like the first poster, the design and colors are vivid, memorable. The reverse-negative image makes the Ohlone Indian look more "present" than past, even if it comes from an old photo.

The "Decolonize the 99%" message is the same, but the "Oakland Is Occupied Ohlone Territory" line helps. It seems clear to me what this poster is advocating.

I'd say this poster is the best one. My second choice would be the first poster, even with the stereotypes. Adrienne obviously disagrees, and that's okay. <g>

Designing the ideal poster

An ideal Native poster for nationwide use might have the following elements:

  • Nonstereotypical Indian images not from the Plains.

  • A bright, bold design and colors.

  • A primary message such as "Wall Street and America Are Occupied Territories" or "Occupied Since 1492," which implies all of America.

  • An alternative to the intellectual "Decolonize" message, which some Americans may not get. And something that links "decolonizing" with "defending Mother Earth."

    Otherwise we don't know if these are two separate and unrelated goals or two closely interrelated goals. The latter, presumably, but the poster doesn't make that clear. Maybe something like, "Stop destroying our land and start defending it."

  • There you go...your amateur art critique for the day. For more the Occupy movement, see Occupiers Aren't Decolonizers and Occupy Denver Joins Columbus Protest.


    Anonymous said...

    Good points all, but I would design this for Occupy Seattle: Photo of John T. Williams, with Angeline in the background, next to the occupation of Westlake park,
    Wording, "The Voice of the People Should be the Law of the Land."

    Anonymous said...

    Too bad the OWS movement is all about promoting fascism, increasing the power of ruling elites, and blaming the wrong people for problems.

    Rob said...

    Good line, Anonymous #1.

    No, that's not what the Occupy movement is about, Anonymous #2. You may be thinking of the Tea Party movement. Try again and provide evidence for your claims this time.

    dmarks said...

    Actually, the Tea Party is much more against the abuses of the ruling elites.