Dress to Redress: Exploring Native American Material Culture
A new exhibition that celebrates hidden stories of female strength and resilience through fashion and visual culture is set to share insights from key researchers at the University of Hull with a wider audience.
The exhibition features a spectacular series of wearable art by Dr Celeste Pedri-Spade, an Anishinaabe artist, visual anthropologist and collaborator with the Brightening the Covenant Chain Arts and Humanities Research Council project team at the University of Hull.
Combining Indigenous design and materials with aspects of European fashion, Dress to Redress: Exploring Native American Material Culture connects the experiences of Indigenous and European women, and illustrates the powerful role that women have played in their communities.
The exhibition opened at the American Museum & Gardens in Bath in March and runs until 3 July 2022.
Dress to Redress is the first of a series of public events that will raise the profile of Indigenous culture and art in Britain
Dr Pedri-Spade said: “In order to move towards something other than colonialism, we need to encounter it in the present, making the present connect to the past. But I also think we need more than that. We need to imagine and fashion something radically different.”
Dress to Redress showcases how fashion can be used to reinscribe Indigenous community relationships and to critically examine history with an emphasis upon imagining new futures. For the Anishinabeg, the act of making is an important way of producing history. Colonial settlers did not fully recognise this important historical tradition, and they often dismissed, confiscated or destroyed Indigenous items of great intercultural value.
Dr Pedri-Spade is a ‘mark maker’ who continues this long tradition of storytelling: using cloth and other tactile materials, she tells the story of how brave women have always defended the land and their kin. One of her creations, titled ‘Anti Pipeline Society Kwe’, is envisioned as regalia to be worn by Indigenous women who protect their homelands from violent extractive industry.
Anti Pipeline Society Kwe (Credit: Linda Roy)
Dress to Redress highlights the vibrant and longstanding relationship between Indigenous Americans and the British / Canadian Crown.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the American Museum & Gardens and the Treatied Spaces Research Group funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council project which explores the trans-Atlantic relationship between the British / Canadian Crown and Indigenous peoples of the American Northeast.
Joy Porter, Professor of Indigenous & Environmental History at the University of Hull and co-lead of Treatied Spaces – a collaborative research group at the University, said: “Alongside much else, this collection speaks to the ways in which Indigenous women have always played decisive roles within and between cultures. In reclaiming that history, this new exhibition links it to the rising power of Indigenous female leadership today.
“The current U.S. Secretary of the Interior is an Indigenous woman from the Laguna Pueblo – tribal member Deb Haaland. In this exceptionally powerful role, she directs the management of America’s vast public lands, natural resources and cultural heritage. She is also responsible for honouring the treaty obligations owed to America’s 574 federally recognised tribes.
“This beautiful Material Kwe exhibition brings a radical new way of understanding the American past to the UK, one where female leadership takes rightful centre stage.”
The project brings the Indigenous past into dialogue with the present by facilitating collaborations between Indigenous communities and cultural institutions in the UK.
Dress to Redress is the first of a series of public events that will raise the profile of Indigenous culture and art in Britain.
Incorporating items from the collections of the American Museum & Gardens, the only museum of Americana in the UK, Dress to Redress is an opportunity to experience cutting-edge Indigenous contemporary art & textiles.
Kate Hebert, Curator at the American Museum & Gardens, said: ‘We are delighted to be hosting an exhibition of work by Dr Celeste Pedri-Spade. This exhibition of contemporary Anishinaabe material culture is an important part of our Diversity and Inclusion work and central to our commitment to providing a platform for authentic voices from the cultures of our collection and displays.
“We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to host Celeste for a residency in May as part of this project. Without our partnership with the University of Hull this important work would not have been possible.”
This exhibition, which is part of the project 'Brightening the Covenant Chain', has been made possible through collaboration between Queen’s University, Canada, and the University of Hull’s Treatied Spaces Research Group, with funding provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom (Standard Research Grant AH/T006099/1).
Main image: Anti-Pipeline Society C. Pedri-Spade, 2019. Photo credit: Linda Roy