Yesterday we visited the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) to see the exhibition Kent Monkman: Being Legendary (included with General Admission to the museum). This remarkable exhibition presents an extensive group of Monkman’s social realist paintings juxtaposed with some artifacts from the museum’s collection.
Interpreted by Monkman’s shape-shifting, time-travelling, gender-fluid alter ego, the legendary being Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, the exhibition depicts how deeply Indigenous knowledge is embedded in the lands of Turtle Island. Cree and other Indigenous peoples have carried this knowledge in stories, songs, and artworks since time immemorial.
Museums tell us about our history in a way that is presented as objective, but Monkman, a Cree artist, asks us to consider a different view of history, and he does so with a tremendously emotional group of works. Take your time in the exhibition. These paintings offer up much detail and many surprises. We went through, doubled back and went through again. There is a lot to take in here and I plan to return to experience it again. Fortunately Being Legendary continues through March 19.
Miss Chief Eagle Testicle has long been Monkman’s alter-ego, a character who tries to correct colonial views of Indigenous history. Recurring through the works are the legendary Cree mîmîkwîsiwak, or little people and it seems many of the images are rooted in traditional storytelling.