Making sense out/of the visual: Aboriginal presentations and representations in nineteenth-century Canada
Art History , Volume 27 - Issue 4
This essay examines a series of visual representations and material objects made by Aboriginal and colonial artists for the Prince of Wales's 1860 tour. This first royal visit to Canada featured a series of carefully staged meetings with Indians wearing distinctive dress, presentations of fine, Native-made gifts, performances and formal speeches. The tour also stimulated a wealth of pictorial representa- tions ranging from amateur watercolours to professional lithographs commissioned for the new illustrated weeklies. The material objects and visual images survive in museums and archives as a deposit of a moment of heightened colonial encounter and contestation. I argue that they reflect both the increased power and the reductionist tendency that characterize visual representation in modernity. On the other hand, the contemporary reassembly and reframing of these materials offers the opportunity to make sense out of the visual by accessing other sensory and performative dimensions of these encounters that point beyond the limitations of the visual towards a more fully post-colonial understanding of their expressive values.