Nightmares and Dreams


Instead of celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday, I wanted to challenge Canadian history, taking a critical look at the effects of colonialism on Native Identity. My artwork titled “Nightmares and Dreams (The protector)” is a symbolic representation of cultural oppression in past history. Within this piece, I have used influences from Indigenous and Tibetan art styles to illustrate the similarities between both culture’s struggles within their rightful homelands.

The colours are bright and dreamlike but the simplicity of the shapes suggest that it is just that- a dream.. The reality is the struggle to find one’s cultural identity, assimilated by European settlers. For some, like the Indigenous people, this is the nightmare. Similarly, the focal point of the painting is the blue mask, known as a “Cham” in Tibetan culture. These masks often have an enraged or menacing look, in order to strike terror into evil spirits and to chase them off, but they don’t symbolize demons. Raging masks belong to deities and, the more terrifying, the better they will keep wicked spirits at bay, or to chase away nightmares. The skulls normally depicted on the crown of the mask have been replaced by totems, used to represent the Native identity and home they have lost.

Because Indigenous people are so important within Canadian history, I wanted to acknowledge their struggle while also connecting it back to my Tibetan heritage. The goal of “Nightmares and Dreams (The protector)” was to give the viewer a sense of fear and intrigue while shining a light on buried cultural issues for Canada’s 150th birthday.

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36″x 24″
Acrylic on canvas
by Tenzin Tsering

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