mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People): Welcoming the Newcomers

Kent Monkman Canadian

Not on view

Commissioned by The Met in 2019, Monkman’s mistikôsiwak: Wooden Boat People is a diptych consisting of Welcoming the Newcomers and Resurgence of the People (MMA 2020.216b), two monumental figurative paintings painted in a grand, highly detailed style recalling nineteenth-century academic painting. The commission’s primary title derives from a Cree word meaning "wooden boat people," which originally applied specifically to French settlers, but here it refers to all Europeans who colonized land known now as North America. Welcoming the Newcomers dramatically recreates their arrival, bringing with them institutions of religion and slavery. Resurgence of the People is a testament to, and celebration of, Indigenous resiliency. Monkman's shape-shifting, time-traveling alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, appears prominently in both paintings, personifying Cree values and embodying the Indigenous Two Spirit tradition, which embraced a third gender and nonbinary sexuality. Monkman’s imagery teems with references to works in The Met collection, especially subjects relating to the Romantic myth of the "Vanishing Race," such as Eugène Delacroix’s The Natchez (1989.328) and Thomas Crawford’s Mexican Girl Dying (97.13.2a–e). Reversing the colonial gaze of European and American art history, the artist’s approach subverts these dark, deadly narratives.

mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People): Welcoming the Newcomers, Kent Monkman (First Nations, Cree, born Saint Marys, Ontario 1965), Acrylic on canvas

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