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Masai Lion

Masai Lion is part of a greater project called Elegance Untamed. The full project was a magazine cover and 11-page fashion photography spread made in collaboration with the Milwaukee Public Museum and award-winning The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It shared an elevated point of view on the first animal habitat dioramas ever made, while bringing attention to a small public museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they are housed. Acting as a historical marker that lends itself to social commentary, the results of the project went viral on Boing Boing, then the Anthropological Forum started a dialog around the implications of using these in fashion-related commentary, the ethics, and the importance of redefining these controversial works where science, colonialism, and art merge. Lastly, Yale incorporated it into their 2007 Museum and Arts Administration curriculum as a case study showing students how creativity can be used to modernize the dialog around the natural history museum, and engage a younger adult audience helping expand the present day value of the natural history museum. 

"Fashion can unite and divide communities. It has the ability to shape and identify...." ~ Author Rebekah Bradshaw

This particular (pre-Ai) photo-illustration is a representation of the power struggle between humans and the natural environment. as well as, the systemic problems within the fashion industry becoming public knowledge. It is about power structures put into place by European colonialism and the American Slave Trade. In 1889, the first natural history museum habitats in America were created by Carl Akeley, for the Milwaukee Public Museum. During that period, colonialism was peaking the American Civil War had come to an end in 1865, 24 years prior.


In 1869, New York's Natural History Museum was founded by Albert Smith Bickmore, a known eugenics theorist. He hired Akeley to later bring his habitat dioramas to New York’s Natural History Museum, who was largely responsible for the installation of the Hall of African Mammals. 

In 2006, the first fashion photographs using the world’s first animal habitat dioramas were created by Christine Taylor. The images highlighted the unique contribution a small American city made to the world while sharing a vision that fashion has the power to make a social impact and spark awareness around the relationship between fashion and colonialism.

The original diorama is called 'Masia Lion Hunt'. It portrays some aboriginal tribal peoples, called the Masai, hunting a lion in an African savannah. 


Fashion can act as a form of resistance. This body of work provokes conversation around power, class, and gender not only between different interpretations of these topics, but also around the history of global colonialism and the present day power dynamics of White Supremacy and its influence on consumption and how the natural history museum is a standing symbol of that power and habitual consumption of things that the dominant White culture deemed 'other'.

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