Ghost Dance Dress

Ghost Dance Dress, 2000, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith,  born 1940 Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation, Montana, United States of America.  Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY



The Ghost Dance is a North American Indian politico-religious institution involving, as its most important element, a dance incorporated into the traditional American Indian circle dance. 

Originated by a leader of the Northern Paiute in the late 1880s, the institution spread from tribe to tribe, taking on local colouration and a political significance which influenced resistance to white American rule.

Its central belief was that the dance would bring the spirits of the dead to the aid of the living in the fight against white colonists.  And would lead to an era of peace and prosperity.


The Ghost Dance is thought to have gone into decline after the massacre of the Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890.

The Ghost Dance was danced by the Lakota in 1973 at Wounded Knee. It is believed that it continues to be incorporated in the private ceremonies of several American Indian groups.



This institution served a function not dissimilar to that of the Mangakaa created by master sculptors under ritual supervision. 

Bantu ethnic group.  Speakers of Kicongo.  Watershed of the River Congo. Second Half of the 19th century.

Created by master artisans to protect the population against the incursion of Europeans.  Some Americans also, mostly missionaries.


Less than 20 of these figures survive because foreigners, believing them to be efficacious, confiscated and destroyed them. Their owners removed first the ritual elements.




Mixed media figure, unknown creator. Congo Basin, loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2015


The entire Congo basin continues, of course, in a state of catastrophe and war.





The American artist, Nick Cave, made his first sound suit when police in Los Angeles city beat Rodney King (1965-2012) to within an inch of his life. 53 people died in the ensuing riots. 


The artist proposed that his suits be used as protection against the profiling of minorities who are the target of police action out of proportion to their number in the North American population. 

His sound suits (the name comes from the noise made by his first suit with all its appendages), become more and more elaborate. 

As do the threats to our democracies.





Soundsuit, 2011, found objects, knit head and bodysuit, and mannequin.  Nick Cave, American born 1959.





One thought on “Ghost Dance Dress

  1. Fascinating juxtapositions. Thanks for threading this needle! Susannah

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