Gender Identity and Art: Celebrating What Colonialism Erased

Students of travel are frequently exposed to the legacy of colonialism. As we explore the world, we come face to face with traditions and customs that have been either eliminated or commodified. In no area is this more potently true than when it comes to the erasure of gender diversity around the world. Before colonialism took hold, gender-expansive categories existed in many traditional cultures and were present on every continent. This year, a few artists are finally getting to bring their culture’s gender identity back to the light.

In Samoan culture, a gender category called fa’afafine is occupied by those who were presumed male based on their anatomy but display feminine characteristics as they grow. At this year’s Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most distinguished arts events, fa’afafine artist Yuki Kihara will be showing curated selections from her photographic series Paradise Camp. The pieces all reflect influences from Gaugin, the tourism industry, environmental degradation, and what it means to be excluded from art, advertising, and aid.

A famed legend in Hawaiian lore tells the story of the mahu, healers who encapsulate both male and female elements. In the story, four healers arrived from Tahiti and shared their spiritual gifts with residents of the islands, who were so grateful that they erected four large stones as monuments of tribute. On June 18, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu opened an exhibition that begins with an animated portrayal of the story and is comprised of various artifacts from the Hawaiian healing traditions. The animation will be shown in both English and ʻōlelo Niʻihau, the form of the Hawaiian language most untouched by foreign contact.

In Oaxacan culture, the gender category muxe is one occupied by those with feminine presentation whose anatomy would have categorized them as male within a binary system. Muxe occupy a complicated space within their regional culture which is explored by performance artist Lukas Avendaño (she/he) in his show LEMNISKATA, which will be staged in early July. Her choreography incorporates sound, imagery, and Zapotec mythological traditions to give audiences a fully immersive perspective into muxe realities.

Original article HERE.