Paper Is People: Decolonizing Global Paper Cultures

Exhibition dates: October 28 – December 21, 2023

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION: Paper Is People: Decolonizing Global Paper Cultures, co-curated by Tia Blassingame and Stephanie Sauer, offers a new definition of paper­ within a global and decolonial framework. Featuring works by local, national, and international artists, this exhibition explores the vital role substrates play in human communities and how meaning is made from what we might call paper and papermaking.

Viewed together, the works on display seek to open a conversation around what paper is across cultures today: a vessel for collective memory, a body, a site of meaning, a living ancestor, and a form of cultural survival and resistance. To appreciate global paper cultures in a decolonial context, it is important to consider definitions of paper that move beyond those created and sanctioned by imperial powers. In the Indigenous and oral cultures represented here, baskets, tapestries, and other handmade substrates act as vessels and embodiments of culture and memory. Some even hold status as animate members of their community. Among peoples subjugated under slavery and denied access to literacy and the requisite tools for creating paper and books, maintaining and building upon their threatened cultural knowledge required creativity like those exhibited in African American quilts. Paper Is People presents each cultural substrate as a new definition within contextualized multimedia displays that invite thoughtful participation and engagement of the senses.

Exhibiting artists: Alisa Banks :: Hannah Chalew :: Page Pūko‘a Chang :: Julio Laja Chichicaxtle :: Kelly Church :: Hong Hong :: Chenta Laury :: Aimee Lee :: Radha Pandey :: Veronica Pham :: Trina Michelle Robinson :: Steph Rue :: Seringô Collective :: rhiannon skye tafoya


Scholarship workshops for BIPOC students:

Through generous support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation, two workshops ("Exploring Materiality, Meaning and Memory: Natural Dyes in Papermaking" with Trina Michelle Robinson and "Paper Bojagi" with Steph Rue) will be offered in December 2023 for BIPOC-identifying (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students. Scholarships for both workshops have been awarded; materials lists and description for both workshops can be found here.

Paper Is People: Decolonizing Global Paper Cultures originated at and has been organized by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. It is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Craft Research Fund grant from the Center for Craft, and a Zellerbach Family Foundation grant.