The Great Mystery

Kent Monkman, Cree / Canadian, born 1965
First Nation



Acrylic on canvas

Overall: 117 1/2 × 91 1/2 in. (298.5 × 232.4 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Miriam H. and S. Sidney Stoneman Acquisition Fund

© Kent Monkman



Place Made: Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Canada, North America


21st century

Object Name


Research Area

Native American


Not on view


Western abstract expressionists, such as Mark Rothko and Hannes Beckmann, pushed the language of painting to explore the subconscious, the emotional, and the spiritual. For Monkman, the exploration of these themes runs parallel to the meaning of the Cree concept of mamahtâwisiwin, which can be described as a state of being where one connects to the great mystery of the universe.

As Monkman explains about this new body of work, "In these new interventions with the work of abstract expressionists, the similarities to Indigenous worldviews become apparent, but also the significant differences. . . . For hundreds of years, settler cultures have lived in relationship with Indigenous peoples, yet we remain mysterious to each other, our core values too divergent to ever meld. However, in folding the Cree concept of mamahtâwisiwin into Western abstract paintings, I am exploring the commonalities in our understandings of the unknowable."

From the 2023 exhibition Kent Monkman: The Great Mystery, curated by Jami Powell, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs & Curator of Indigenous Art

Course History

Film Studies 42.23, Travelers and Tourists, Heidi Denzel, Spring 2023

College Course 21.01, What's In Your Shoebox? , Francine A'Ness and Mokhtar Bouba, Spring 2023

Native American and Indigenous Studies 21.01, Indigenous People Political Economies, Raymond Orr, Spring 2023

Native American and Indigenous Studies 30.26, Indigenous Geographies, Elan Pochedley, Spring 2023

Native American and Indigenous Studies 8.01, Perspectives in Native American Studies, Raymond Orr, Spring 2023

Philosophy 1.11, Art: True, Beautiful, Nasty, John Kulvicki, Summer 2023

English 62.05, Horrors of Survival: Modern American Literature, Jamie Godley, Summer 2023

First Year Student Enrichment Program – Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Mokhtar Bouba, Summer 2023

Writing 2.05, Why Write, Anyway?, Erkki Mackey, Fall 2023

College Course 26.01, What's In Your Toolbox?, Francine A'Ness and Mokhtar Bouba, Fall 2023

Writing 5.04, How to Look, John Barger, Fall 2023

Writing 5.34, How to Look, John Barger, Fall 2023

Writing 5.05, Image and Text, Becky Clark, Fall 2023

Writing 5.06, Image and Text, Becky Clark, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

Kent Monkman: The Great Mystery, Lathrop Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 8 - December 16, 2023.


The artist, Kent Monkman, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory; commissioned by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, 2023.

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