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The Noble Savage Was a Drag Queen: Hybridity and Transformation in Kent Monkman's Performance and ... - page 2 / 19





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and propaganda to create a space for himself, and queer identity, in the story of the early

Wild West. In Monkman's version of history, his half-breed drag-queen alter-ego, Miss

Chief Share Eagle Testickle, runs riot on the unspoilt vistas of the 19th century, affirming

her existence and (re)negotiating her queer sexual power. Prior to colonization, queer

identity (known in Native communities as Two-Spirit in honour of the existence of both

the male and female spirit in one body) was widely accepted among many different North

American tribes,2 although this fact has been virtually eliminated from historical

renderings of the period. Through his humorous and provoking interventions, Monkman

reclaims that history and, using Foucault's concept of sexuality as a site of cultural power,

insists on the existence and continued survival of queer Native identities.

In the performance art piece Traveling Gallery and European Male Emporium,

which emerged from the series of paintings entitled Eros and Empire, Monkman

celebrates and utilizes the concept of hybridity to offer an alternative mythology that

transforms the prevailing fixed and static notions of Native sexuality, identity, and

history. Jose Muñoz writes: "Hybrid catches the fragmentary subject formation of people

whose identities traverse different race, sexuality, and gender identifications."3

Identifying as mixed-race/mixed-gender in his work, Monkman effectively embodies and

applies the concept of hybridity as a method for cultural navigation, demonstrating its

transformative power in creating new identities and historical perspectives. Homi Bhabha

argues that by occupying a hybrid space, the colonized can renegotiate the terms of

2 Deschamps, Gilbert. We Are Part of a Tradition: A Guide on Two-Spirited People for First Nations

Communities. Mino-B'maadiziwin Project: www.2spirits.com. Toronto: 2-Spirited People of the First Nations, 1998. This short guide offers the history of the Two-Spirit in a modern context, explaining some of the basic philosophical approaches and the current issues that continue to affect Two-Spirit people.

3 Muñoz, Jose Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999, p. 31. Muñoz looks at queer theatre as a process or outcome of what he terms disidentifcation. He describes this as a point of departure, of building, where queer artists build identities and politics in the present and in the future, a concept that fittingly describes Monkman's work.


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