Challenging Coloniality through Art

by Julia Zimring

In collaboration with the Nordic Studies Program and the Department of African American Studies, IES was pleased to welcome visual artist Jeannette Ehlers for a dynamic conversation on March 14. The discussion, “How to Challenge Scandinavian Colonial Amnesia,” focused on artistic strategies of resistance to coloniality and counter-narratives to the Eurocentric writing of history. Panelists included Professor Leigh Raiford and PhD candidate Elizabeth Hunter, both scholars of African Diaspora Studies.

Ehlers, a graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, is a Copenhagen-based artist of Danish and Trinidadian descent. Her work experiments with photography, video installations, sculpture, and performance, focusing on self-representation and image manipulation. These techniques are used as a means to represent Denmark’s colonial impact in the Caribbean and participation in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. From a material and affective perspective, Ehlers’ use of images seeks to disrupt dominant narratives of history and activate what she terms “decolonial hauntings.” Her presentation focused on artistic practices of merging the historical, the collective and the rebellious with the familial, the bodily and the poetic.

Ehlers’ performance-based lecture was followed by a lively discussion and Q&A session with the 30 audience members in attendance. The panelists insisted on the possibility for empowerment and healing through art, honoring legacies of resistance in the African diaspora.