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Simmons Lecture: Acts of Translation - Black Artists and "The Song of Hiawatha"


Featuring Anna Arabindan-Kesson

2021 Terry K. Simmons Lecture in Art History

Acts of Translation: Black Artists and The Song of Hiawatha

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Assistant Professor, African American and Black Diasporic Art, Princeton University

An epic in its time, “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry W. Longfellow had a long afterlife in visual art.  This paper focuses on the work of Robert S. Duncanson, Robert Douglass, Jr., and Edmonia Lewis, three artists who included representations of Native Americans in their artistic production. Thinking of these works as sites of convergence, I examine their intermediality - the ways these artists translated poetry into paint and marble - in their depiction of colonial encounters. In working through their acts of translation, I want to ask how these artists negotiate acts of reading and looking and what their representations – troubling as they might appear to us now – reveal about constructions of freedom in the United States, not in relation to the state, but as it could be envisaged in cross-cultural encounters between African Americans and Native Americans in the pre- and post-Civil War years?

This lecture is part of a year-long series Representation and Resistance: Scholarship Centering Race in Western Art organized by Mia L. Bagneris and Michelle Foa of the Newcomb Art Department and co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Program.

image: Robert S. Duncanson, Falls of Minnehaha, 1862, Private Collection

Zoom link: https://tulane.zoom.us/j/95500128526?pwd=cC9BWGhFZ0NLczB6TUMxM3pzOEdZUT09 Password:  ART

Newcomb Art Department

For more information contact: Laura Richens via email to lrichens@tulane.edu or by phone at 504.314.2228
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