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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, American, Seminole, Muscogee, Dine, born 1954

Photographic Memoirs of an Aboriginal Savant (Living on Occupied Land), 1994
15 prints with text and photographic and cartoon reproductions, print and negative
11 x 14 in. (each print)
Purchased through the Contemporary Art Fund; 2007.55

Upon reaching her fortieth birthday, Tsinhnahjinnie realized her reflections on her family, political views, and life experiences in what has now become her signature piece, Photographic Memoirs of an Aboriginal Savant (Living on Occupied Land). The concept for this work came about one evening during dinner with a group of her "techie" friends. The idea arose to use yellowed and aged paper from the blank pages of old books, which she digitally assembled as an electronic diary "masquerad[ing] as a book." Tsinhnahjinnie and her friends appreciated the paradox that authenticity could be digitally created through the aged pages of a "non-existent book."

For this project, Tsinhnahjinnie filled fifteen vintage pages with photographs, illustrations, and typewritten text in the first person. Writing herself into the narrative of these "memoirs," she presents herself "the way that I see myself rather than being interpreted by others." Beginning on page "1954" (the artist's birth year), the book is filled with prose, images, strong emotions, and recollections that evoke the voices of her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and father, who pass down stories of strength, survival, endurance, and knowledge. Both image and text look inward to document moments and thoughts in Tsinhnahjinnie's life-childhood and family memories, high school, friends, experiences, and dreams-mingled with strong political statements that defiantly convey her personal convictions as a mature "Aboriginal savant." Within this sovereign space, she regains control over the visual, personal, and cultural narrative, where, as she states in the introduction to her "memoirs," the viewer can "journey to the center of an aboriginal mind without the fear of being confronted by the aboriginal herself."

Last Updated: 1/7/09