Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Performance, Politics, Belonging


With additional Proof of Concept funding from the European Research Council to develop resources for intercultural dialogues in the arts sector, the Indigeneity Project ran two artist residencies in 2014 in London and Berlin respectively. These initiatives provided opportunities for the performance makers involved to respond creatively to European collections and curatorial practices, which continue to exert a powerful influence on public perceptions of indigeneity. Helen Gilbert, Dani Phillipson, Sergio Miguel Huarcaya, Rose Harriman and guest photographer Tallie Renouf facilitated and documented the residencies. Sergio produced a 5-minute video of each project to distribute to the artists, the museums and the project website, while Dani oversaw the development of a detailed, multi-voiced production journal titled Hands On: Indigenous Artists and European Cultural Institutions – The Story of Two Artist Residencies.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle
The residency work in London focused on the Horniman Museum and Gardens, where a vast collection of musical instruments lives. Here, Canadian singer and sound artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Cree/Métis) visited broken, rare and archived objects, sharing her knowledge of indigenous musical and ceremonial practices with curatorial staff. In the process, she also found inspiration for a new interdisciplinary installation: Sing Land: SongMark and other Indigenous Illuminations. The work followed a practice of what she calls ‘indigenous sonic mapping’, or singing land and objects as a way of locating the artist in the environment. One portion of L’Hirondelle’s performance imaginatively staged what a Native drum in the museum’s collection might see from day to day; another animated the sound of a finely constructed elk-foot rattle. The final ‘illumination’ took the form of a tipi made from light beams and drifting sage smoke at the base of the Millennium Footbridge across the Thames in the company of special guest Cree singer and storyteller Joseph Naytowhow. Video highlights of this residency are recorded at

Rosanna Raymond

At Berlin’s Ethnological Museum, Pasifikan artist Rosanna Raymond was excited to find extensive holdings of textiles, images and hand-crafted items from her homeland in Samoa, which was colonised briefly by Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century. As part of the performance she created from this encounter, Rosanna treated staff and visitors to an ‘Acti.VA.tion’ of the massive Südsee collection, which features outrigger canoes and ornate meeting houses, among thousands of other beautifully fashioned objects and photographs. Soli I Tai – Soli I Uta (Tread on the Sea – Tread on the Land), her processional performance through the galleries, activated the Samoan principle of VA to suggest ways in which the objects on view are interwoven in human histories, past and present. At heart, Raymond sees herself as a ‘tusitala’ (teller of tales), combining spoken word art, drumming, body adornment and projected images in her activations. VA, she explains, is ‘the space that holds things together in relation, the glue that binds us together across differences’. Video highlights of this residency are recorded at


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