Writer and activist Zainab Amadahy discusses ARTIST as WARRIOR.
As artists we know that the ability to imagine a better life is the first step in creating one. Many of us allow ourselves to be used by Creator, Ancestors and Helper Spirits to communicate through our work. They are crying out for us to heal our relationships with self, each other and Mother Earth. We will succeed in this because, whether we listen to scientists or Elders or own experience, living with respect for Our Relations is, quite simply, the best way to enjoy life.
The victories of colonization are, in part, based on the ability of Eurocentric artists to create mythology and generate emotionally powerful visions of the “natural” superiority of whites, their cultures and their economy. Films, books and art across disciplines have depicted Indigenous and racialized peoples, our communities and our cultures as everything from savage to stupid to hopelessly naïve, if we’re depicted at all. When there is room in colonial mythology for us to be anything other than a stereotype, we are portrayed as almost equals, only because we have internalized the colonizers’ values and aspire to be just like them. Or worse, we are their mirrors, reminders of their barbarism, out of which they transform themselves to emerge as the heroes of our lives.
Proving the adage that the way to make people accept a lie is to repeat it often, colonizers believe their myths. They have enacted laws, policies and institutions to turn their myths into reality; to frame land theft, the pillaging of resources and ongoing genocide here and around the world as “development”.
As artists we have the choice of playing the game in hopes of becoming rich, famous, egocentric celebrities. Or we can choose to inspire, imagine and generate excitement about what decolonized and healed lives, families and communities might look like – for all peoples.
Many of us have already empowered ourselves to mythologize, creating works that envision justice, healthy communities and respect for the land. We have re-claimed, re-framed and renewed our histories. And we don’t have to make anything up to demonstrate that there are better ways of being.
“My people will sleep for 100 years and when they awake it will be the artists that will give them back their spirit.” Metis leader Louis Riel, before he was murdered.