Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access


Visual Arts

First Advisor

Lorraine Cox




- Contemporary art - Black artists - Indigenous artists - Historical trauma


We live in a world wherein black, brown, and ethnic minorities are forced to navigate daily race-based stressors, including but not limited to discrimination, poverty, oppression, and micro-aggressions. These current events that are explicitly seen in areas such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada are, in part, the lasting consequences of historical trauma passed down through generations. Genocide, displacement, forced relocation, slavery, and the intentional destruction of cultural practices are deeply rooted in the fiber of our history. These past injustices are intrinsically linked to present events, wherein they have become part of our contemporary cultural narrative. While historical trauma is collective, it is also deeply personal and individualized. It combines external events with internal processes that linger on the souls of subsequent generations. It destroys families and threatens the vibrancy of entire cultures. Throughout history, activists, community leaders, politicians, and artists have revolted against racial violence, discrimination, and the hierarchies imposed by those in privileged positions of power. Artists of color have long challenged the status quo by challenging dominant oppressive discourse and existing racist ideologies through their own visual languages. They use their work as a catalyst to educate the oppressor and heal the oppressed by interrogating historical trauma and its contemporary consequences on an individual and collective level. There is an immediacy in addressing past injustices now inscribed in the fiber of our communities. With the help and guidance from Professor Lorraine Morales Cox, this thesis takes up the work of three black contemporary artist; specifically U.S artists Carl Robert Pope and Arthur Jafa and British artist Barbara Walker and three indigenous contemporary artists, specifically U.S artists Wendy Red Star and Nicholas Galanin, and Canadian artist Kent Monkman. The works of these six artists give us greater insight and understanding into how art can be committed to addressing and depicting historical trauma, Their work documents, memorializes, and intervenes in past injustices and current racial unrest. By creating empathy as a strategy, they explore the intersection of distrust between the oppressor and the oppressed based on historical and present antagonisms. To appreciate how art can respond to social and political upheaval, one must appreciate historical trauma's significant disruption of traditional ways of life, culture, and identity. Accordingly, a contextual understanding of historical trauma is not only instructive but imperative.



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In Copyright - Educational Use Permitted.