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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

No Indigenous Trauma Porn

The representations of Indigenous people in media is complex because on one hand we’re just so excited to see ourselves represented but then when we look into the piece we can sometimes see that the representation is actually perpetuating and upholding imperial oppression and I think we urgently need to be making art that disturbs imperialism.


My metric for work that disrupts imperial structures of conditioning is after I engage with the piece I ask do I feel nourished by it and activated to participate in the emancipatory Indigenous revolution or does this work trigger trauma and propel people into draining conditioned imperial responses, like feelings of anxiety, depression, hopelessness and hurt.


Work that triggers and feeds pain by regurgitating and re-embodying the trauma with no new perspective perpetuates white supremacy and inhibits our agency to heal and live outside colonial oppression.

I don’t think it’s revolutionary and I’m not here for imperial designed and conditioned art.

It’s super boring to me. It provokes Indigenous pain whilst supplying some gross level of catharsis for medo's.


Without illuminating and offering the process of transforming pain - it just causes more. And because imperial subservient art makes white people feel less guilty and totally undisturbed, people get awarded and supported because under the watch of the state they are being good little indians.


There needs to be a significant culture shift in what narratives and portrayals get celebrated. With white jury's, curated by imperial institutions, with predominantly imperialist leaders, my fear is that this trauma centered era we are in will continue, because it is what the state desires, supports and champions.


When I see Indigenous trauma porn art it’s usually a result of one of these:


1. Subservience to colonialism

2. Unaddressed trauma

3. Egoic creative practice


It’s why our artists were taken care of and trained from a very young age. We knew it’s power, we knew it’s impact on the community and we wouldn’t let a spirit that’s not well to emit and embody our healing practice. Art is our medicine.


Indigenous artistic creation has always been about honouring a process of healing and transformation. I engage with and celebrate artists who’ve unlocked this knowing in their blood and usually outside of the settler gaze are permeating healing with their practice.


We are in urgent need of artists that activate and mobilize our peoples outside the paradigm of Indigenous suffering. You don’t have to tap dance for the white man anymore, they can’t afford and don’t deserve Indigenous tears and pain. It feeds them and not us and if you're selling it you are not getting compensated enough.


It is my experience that the people illuminating and embodying the transformations from trauma and sharing this power are the actual artists leading the Indigenous revolution.

This requires a lot of personal healing, decolonizing and troubling one's own participation in imperial colonialism and because I want the next generation to unshackle themselves from imperial metrics of permissible and celebrated art, I offer a little how to "an easy guide "to NOT write and create Indigenous trauma porn."


Illuminate the transformation of the pain so the energy of the trauma powerfully fuels joy and love and ignites healing for our community.


That's it.


Yes, bearing witness to the pain is necessary to heal from trauma but we don’t need to go into great detail with our public art to do that. What we need is to see the powerful transformation of it so we promote healing and not trigger our community members and sustain and perpetuate Indigenous pain.

I will add there will be lots of community members who have and will mistake Indigenous trauma porn art for witnessing because the imperial conditioning has permeated our notions and understanding of healing. But know that this re-experiencing trauma in art - IS NOT HEALING. Our ceremonies have been under attack and so forcibly removed that imperialists have swapped meaningful ceremonial healing for state approved notions of healing and not all community members of conscious of this.

What we’re actually encountering when we hear people respond positively to Indigenous trauma porn art, is community members in great pain who've been neglected and have yet to have their pain and traumatic experiences witnessed. Like the momentary excitement we get when we see ourselves in art, they see their pain in the art and a micro but imperial structured witness ceremony occurs. Something in the blood goes, oh I remember this feeling, this witnessing but enacting it with your art is not safe or healthy because there is no sustained support. I believe it to be incredibly unethical and anti-Indigenous.


As an Indigenous artist working today if you have not investigated, researched and or are not dealing with our own trauma, or we do not deeply understand how it works - I think it’s reckless to be creating.


Healing is an ongoing journey. I will be healing until I return to the Earth but by going on this journey I'm able to consciously and safely separate my experiences from my art. I'm able to consult and be in good relations with the community to hold myself accountable and work with Elders and oppressed community members, to ensure that the work I create is for healing and spiritual nourishment.


I fail often and believe you me I get that trauma porn is seductive. It's so lucrative and the imperial audience is large and I get tempted but remember it is a trap. It might heal you (usually temporarily) but I ask should the community have to endure the painful and ongoing triggering of the art piece so that you can heal?


The real artistic innovation for me, is the artists who are honouring their experiences and who have the capacity to transform the energy to permeate love, joy and resistance not at the expense of the community's health.


Artists like:


Chief Lady Bird

Karlene Harvey

Lisa Jackson

and of course my idol Taika


Be well, watch out for the colonial trauma porn traps and may your artistic expressions nourish the community,


deep love,


Kim


#SayNotToIndigenousTraumaPorn

© 2023 by EK. All rights reserved.