Urban Nation

A filmmaking partnership between Kent Monkman and Gisèle Gordon

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    • Box 343, Station B
    • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • M5T 2W2



Dance to the Berdashe

  • Written, directed, and produced by Kent Monkman
  • 2008, 12 minutes, 5 channel video installation with surround sound
  • Original formats HD and super 8mm; Edition of 3, with one AP
  • 5 steel and fabric hides with projections (individual hide size 10'5" x 8')
  • Final installation dimensions variable


Based on an oil painting of the same name by painter and pseudo-ethnographer George Catlin (1796 - 1872), Dance to the Berdashe is a five channel video installation that re-imagines a lost honour dance to the man/woman of the tribe. The Berdashe tradition was described by Catlin as “one of the most unaccountable and disgusting customs that I have ever met in the Indian country...and where I should wish that it might be extinguished before it be more fully recorded.”

The Berdashe is triumphantly and sensually interpreted by Miss Chief Eagle Testickle (Monkman’s alter ego) as a powerful and glamorous icon. Miss Chief resurrects another Aboriginal persona obscured by colonial history, the Aboriginal Dandy, who was emphatically described, but never painted by Catlin. Igor Stravinsky’s exploration of Primitivism — the ballet score Rite of Spring — is remixed into a powerful soundscape by Phil Strong as virile Dandies, from the four directions, invigorate the Berdashe with the vitality of their honour dance. Through this reciprocal and performative rite, the Dandies and Berdashe renew each other’s spirits, thereby refuting their obfuscation by colonial forces, and Primitivism’s reductive pillaging of indigenous cultures. Text by Stéphane Aquin, Montreal Museum of Fine Art

See photos of the installation on kentmonkman.com