„WOMEN ARE BLESSED, WOMEN ARE COMPLETE, WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL”

In blue capital letters, this sentence is printed on a poster of the Anishinabe artist Leland bell in the exhibition “POSTED! Reflections of native North America”. His paintings show stylized human figures, picking up themes such as caring, sharing, learning, peace and serenity. In the exhibition, his poster is just one of many in which indigenous people use the medium to formulate a request to  recognize the value of indigenous women, while they at the same time highlight existing grievances.

WOMEN AND MYTHOLOGY

In pre-colonial times there was a close connection between mythical legends and real life in indigenous North America: an essential basis was the equal status of men and women in society. Women were not only respected in all indigenous tribes of North America, but also a special power in society was attributed to them. For example, according to the Navajo creation myth, only together the masculine and feminine can balance the universe.

In order to ensure survival, both sexes had to ‘lend a hand’ in pre-colonial times and were dependent on each other. A gender-specific division of labor separated the work areas of men and women. The idea of a ‘superior’ male gender came only with the arrival of Europeans and resulted in violence against women. The positive attitude towards women was weakened by the colonization as well as the indigenous identity as a whole. The current recognition of power of indigenous women is thus also a small step for Native Americans in regaining their own indigenous identity. 

Mythical traditions of the Lakota show: women were highly respected here in in pre-European times and took an important position in society. Two of these mythical female characters are White Buffalo Calf Woman and Double Face Woman. In POSTED! Their stories can be read on the beautiful posters of the Lakota artist Vic Runnels, one of the most famous Lakota artists of the 20th century.

„WHY SHOULD ANY INDIAN WOMAN HAVE TO BLEACH HER HAIR TO BE ACCEPTED?“

The indigenous philanthropist and singer Buffy Saint-Marie sums up today’s difficult living conditions of indigenous women within the national society in a single sentence – to read on the reproduction of a photography taken by Betty Hunter: “Why should any Indian woman have to bleach her hair to be accepted?” In comparison to white women, they are institutionally disadvantaged and more often victims of violent crimes. The influence of European beauty ideals such has light hair weakened the identity of indigenous people and changed the position of women in orientation to European role models.

POSTED!

Curated by anthropologist Markus Lindner and students of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, the exhibition POSTED! shows various attempts to use poster art on walls and advertising pillars to portray indigenous living environments and denounce discrimination.

Get an insight into their research on Instagram and let the students tell you the stories of the posters themselves in a guided tour!