Pictographic dress: decoloniality in the performance of memory
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My thesis examines pictographic War Honor Dresses collaboratively hand-sewn and painted in North America, attributed to the final decade of the eighteenth century. As a natural progression of the centuries-long Indigenous pictographic tradition and due to changes fueled by a dynamic ideological climate, the Lakota were forced to adapt cultural practices according to their changing social and political climate. Art Historian Emil Her Many Horses describes Native Women’s dresses as “aesthetic expressions of tribal culture and personal identity.” Building on that observation, I argue that embodied War Honor Dresses bridge the metaphysical elements with the utilitarian and the aesthetic with the spiritual. Constructed for public spaces, they provide a means by which a community remains connected with a deceased member of their community and serve as early embodied agents of decoloniality. These dresses ultimately inform and influence the work of contemporary artists wishing to form the future by reimaging the past in creative and innovative ways. Comparative analyses of extant War Honor Dresses establish their multiple functions as mobile sacred spaces, mnemonic devices, and time machines. Engaging issues of self-determination and sovereignty, what at first appears to function primarily as a garment, instead visually adheres to historic practices dispersed by the Lakota, as well as concomitant concepts circulated by American Indian historians and artists such as Vine Deloria, Jr. and Rhonda Holy Bear. In a return to tradition, these dresses enable commemoration of the future.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- A critical and comparative analysis of extant pictographic war honor dresses -- Power dressing and performativity -- The influence of generational knowledge on 21st-century Lakota artists -- Conclusion
M.A. (Master of Arts)