What are the commonalities across Indigenous experience, political struggle and artistic practice trans-regionally? What sovereign Indigenous projects find ground across the national spaces known as ‘Taiwan’, ‘Australia’, ‘Finland’, ‘Bangladesh’, ‘Samoa’ or ‘Canada’, to name a few? The anthology Sovereign Words makes a stride towards potentials of Indigenous dialogues across continents. The sixteen contributions emerge from the Critical Writing Ensembles workshop supported by OCA at the 2018 Dakar Art Summit. They vary between historical surveys, critical reflections and first-hand artistic practice. Santosh Kumar Das reflects upon the art history of Madhurbani art that developed a popular market as early as the 1960s, whilst David Garneau’s essay ‘Can I Get a Witness’ expounds the problems of Indigenous art in the White gaze. Biung Ismahasan reflects on the spatial and haptic issues of curating Taiwanese contemporary art while Léuli Māzyār Luna’i Eshrāghi also reflects upon the limits of Eurocentric display and advances Tautuanaga‘o fa’āliga ata as a concept that better suits Samoan practice where health, healing, responsible governance and illumination must be accounted for in the presentation of visual material.
Indigenous is an emerging category that extends and adapts First Peoples’ ways of knowing and being into the contemporary moment and into spaces beyond our home territories.