Art as Activism: Indigenous Artists’ Responses to Nuclear Exposure

This presentation focused on international Indigenous artists’ responses to the impacts of nuclear testing, accidents, and uranium mining on their communities and the environment. 

Manuela Well-Off-Man, chief curator at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the presenter.

Indigenous artists from Australia, Canada, Greenland, Japan, French Polynesia (Tahiti), and the United States with American Samoa and Guam combine tribal knowledge with Indigenous and contemporary art as a visual strategy to address the long-term effects of nuclear exposure.

There are over five hundred abandoned uranium mines and mills on Navajo Nation and Pueblo lands in New Mexico alone, and most of them are unmarked. Native American miners worked in the uranium mines without any protective equipment and have been living in houses constructed from contaminated material, exposed to toxic winds and polluted water. Many of them have died because of uranium-related illness. Exposure to uranium and nuclear poisoning is a serious issue for Indigenous communities worldwide.

The talk takes a closer look at the creative responses of these international Indigenous artists to this deadly legacy.

Zoom/FB recording from May 26, 2022

About the presenter

Manuela Well-Off-Man is an art historian and chief curator at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

She previously served as curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture. With more than 20 years of curatorial experience in museums and galleries, she has curated national and international contemporary Native American art exhibitions.

Well-Off-Man received her Ph.D. in art history from the Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, and her M.A. degree in art history, archaeology and pedagogy from the University of Cologne, Germany. She has authored numerous exhibition catalogue essays, magazine articles and blogs on American art.