J’net AyAyQwaYakSheelth – Nuu-chah-nulth Textile Artist, Cedar Bark Weaver, and Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the ROM
For the Winter 2017 semester with support from its Aboriginal Education Council, the School of Fashion at Ryerson University developed Aboriginal curricula for its mandatory first year course FSN 223: Fashion Concepts and Theory, instructed by Dr. Ben Barry, Associate Professor of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. A lecture was researched and delivered by Ojibway MA Candidate Riley Kucheran, and a panel event featured Angela DeMontigny, Métis Fashion Designer; Sage Paul, Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator; and J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth, Nuu-chah-nulth Textile Artist, Cedar Bark Weaver, and Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the ROM. ‘Fashioning Reconciliation’ is a conversation about Truth & Reconciliation, Cultural Appropriation and Indigenizing the Fashion Industry.
Marie Watt’s sewing circle and Nick Cave’s SoundSuits provide ways to start discussions around challenging issues.
As our long winter was on it’s way out and a new spring beginning an interesting initiative began here in Ottawa. Vicki Heyman, wife of US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, launched Art in Embassies, a project started by John F. Kennedy as way to share the talent of American artists abroad as well as “start cross-cultural dialogue“.
Maria Watt was the American artist chosen to open what has become a series of events focused on the role of art as a catalyst for social change. The timing seemed oddly predestined. Marie, a woman of mixed Settler / Indigenous heritage sat on the stage at the National Gallery of Canada speaking to Greg Hill (the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) about the connecting quality of her work.
“My work draws from my experience as a Scottish German Seneca person in the US growing up in Oregon…[I explore] Indigenous moments in history and European history – those nexuses.”
This was on the eve of the Roundtable Discussion on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was also taking place in Ottawa that week. On the Friday, as Carleton University was hosting the National Roundtable, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), in collaboration with Art in Embassies, was holding a roundtable on Indigenizing the Gallerywith Marie as the honoured guest participant. If a nexus “is a series of connections linking two more more things” than what was happening at that precise moment in Ottawa, in the social spaces where art, academia and politics converge, was a moment where Indigenous women’s voices were being prioritized.
“will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade.”
Along with their blankets participants were requested to write a story that illustrated the importance of that blanket to their family. The stories become the currency and their richness is revealed in their ability to criss-cross countries and cultures, span many generations and fuse past with present. With her works involving blankets Marie does what she can to have the stories available for audiences to read (view some of stories from the NGC install here). At her National Gallery talk she related a few of them to us. One story was Peter’s. The blanket he gave to Marie came from a concentration camp. If I remember correctly, it was his wife’s and it was all she had when she was liberated from the camp. Eventually that same blanket would be used to wrap and protect art work purchased by the couple in the life they created together. Marie feels that such a story flies in the face of Hitler’s denigration of art and is a perfect symbol of reclamation – a blanket’s meaning transformed by its new role.
The stories are also ways for people to enter into the intimate space of another. In this complex historical moment where we struggle to understand the meaning of words like reclamation and reconciliation sometimes the way of navigating that complexity is through the simple act of creating a space for people to share moments. This is the strength of the Art in Embassiesinitiative which has been infused by Vicki’s desire to explore art as social practice precisely because it can build bridges and foster understanding between disparate social circles. As a way of gathering a diverse group together for a common goal, another event that was held as part of Marie’s visit to Ottawa was a sewing circle. It was moving to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders stitching together in the Great Hall at the National Gallery. And the artist was present! Marie took the time to speak with people as well as listen to new stories being shared. For Marie, it’s about being affable in her process. As she says, a sewing circle is about “tucking yourself into something as humble and familiar as cloth. It’s a safe space that’s a much more informal space – getting together in a neighbourly way.”
In these informal spaces people can digest what they might otherwise feel challenged to confront. Marie’s work, although not overtly political, is charged by a political climate that does it best to ignore Indigenous rights and a national leader who publicly declared that the issue of #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) as not “really high on our radar.” As a Seneca woman she uses her art as a way to generously share Indigenous teachings to a non-Indigenous audience.
The next artist speaking as part of the series is Nick Cave. Nick’s work is also about looking at social as well as disciplinary nexuses of art, dance and fashion. Like Marie, he uses the act of sewing and assemblage to move a challenging conversation forward. The intense subject of racial profiling prompted Nick to look at ways we disregard and denigrate. His first “soundsuit” was created by gathering discarded sticks and twigs, the things that surround us during our day that we ignore and allow to become invisible. The final product functioned as both apparel to be worn by a dancer during a performance and sculpture to be inserted into a gallery space. Whether still or animated by performers whose race and class are concealed inside the soundsuits, Nick’s work is meant to break open a space. They are impossible to ignore. As performers climb inside they have a chance to access the feeling of being connected with something seemingly foreign from their everyday but yet some of the materials that Nick utilizes, like Marie’s blankets, are humble ones that are familiar to all.
Again, the timing of this event is important. After months and months of the heaviness of how racial profiling is being executed – literally – by agents of power, we need to widen the discussion around race that has been split open by the murders of black men at the hands of the police. The problematics of race isn’t just an American issue. Here in Canada the erasure of Black bodies in cultural, academic and political institutions has the potential to fester and become a much deeper problem. We need to have the challenging conversations immediately and those conversations have to happen in places like the National Gallery of Canada, an institution where Black contribution to Canadian history and art has been close to absent. No time like the present.
I applaud the audacious spirit that Vicki has brought to the cultural table here in Ottawa and I look forward to participating in more of these types events that create a nexus for change by widening the circle of social influence.
You can follow the conversation at #artconvoAIE. More events will be coming up in 2015!
“OUR TOXIC ADDICTION IS SLOWING DESTROYING OUR BEAUTIFUL WATERWAYS” GreenPeace
Shop till you drop…dead?
In the aftermath of Boxing Day blowouts it’s a great New Year’s Resolution to take time to consider how fashion impacts the planet.
GreenPeace recently launched the Global Detox Campaign in an effort to inform people on how the garment industry, especially in places like China, is turning “public waterways into private sewers.”
According to GreenPeace 320 million people in China are without access to clean drinking water, 40% of surface water is considered polluted and 20% of the urban drinking water is contaminated.
“BEAUTIFUL FASHION DOESN’T HAVE TO COST THE EARTH” Greenpeace
The campaign sparked an around-the-world protest against companies like Zara, Victoria Secret, the Gap and Adidas some of which have now agreed to “detox”.
These toxins don’t just end up the water. New clothing is often sprayed with formaldehyde to protect against mildew and to keep fabrics wrinkle free. We then absorb the toxins through our largest permeable organ – our skin – via the clothes we wear.
With our purchasing dollars, especially during those Boxing Week Sales, we vote ‘YES’ for the continuation of harmful systems unless we opt to change our habits and the way we engage with mall culture and consumerism.
Necessity (mixed with creativity) is the mother of all invention (and prevention).
One way to change is to rock Second Hand Style.
The gorgeous dancers from JACK YOUR BODY – Emily Law, Kristine Flores, Ashley Perez and Jasmyn Fyffe – demonstrated, on the MIXED BAG MAG #MashUPStyle shoot, how to re-mix used clothing. I met JYB dancer Jasmyn Fyffe, when she modeled at a prior shoot and I was inspired by her ability to take cast offs and make them fresh. Many of us do this out of necessity as a way to save money but as we become more engaged around the issues of environmental protection re-using, up-cycling and swapping become great ways to assert our fashion sense while remaining true to the cause.
On the subject of Second Hand Style, Street Culture and Re-Mixing Emily Law (co-choreographer of JACK YOUR BODY along with Ashley Perez) explains that for the show:
“we attempted to costume each section with vintage clothing as much as possible. The majority of the cast owned a lot of second hand clothing, so it was not that challenging to find great retro pieces. Creating this show gave me a chance to wear some of the retro clothing I have been collecting!
Analogous to using authentic clothing pieces from each era, we used classic ‘vintage songs’ specific to each time period. By creating to these songs we are giving them a second life just like the clothing.”
In Street Culture fashion and music riff off each other in a constant creative conversation. Just like DJs who re-mix retro beats to make them fresh the clothing is also about taking the best of the past and making it stylistically relevant to the present. Perfect timing for a world in need of more sustainability (but sexy) choices!
All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
“Jack Your Body is a high-energy dance performance that pays homage to American street dance culture. The cast poses, struts, waacks and jacks their way through soul train, paradise garage and other iconic street dance scenarios. Issues of race, gender and social status come into focus during this dynamic dance piece that explores the evolution of underground social dances from the 70s-90s.”
I was determined and praying to the Gods & Goddesses of Transport that they would remove all obstacles one may encounter when riding the TTC.
I made it. A little late but it was worth the sprint up to Fort York from Bathurst, camera bag and all.
What a stunning venue! The open air, the smell of the fires, the grass covered hills, old rock walls and the cityscape in behind. The context was beautiful but the visual juxtaposition points to an unfortunate history. The Honouring is:
“a site-specific multi-disciplinary performance honouring First Nations warriors of the War of 1812, featuring Onkwehonwe families who sacrificed to protect Haudenosaunee sovereignty, culture and land. Audiences have the opportunity to understand the complexity of the War of 1812 through the experiential lens of First Nations, offering a human face to our history. All First Nations took part in the War of 1812 as sovereign Nation allies to Britain.The Honouringpays homage to their personal sacrifices and belief in what was the best for their family, community and future generations.” More info…
Here’s a sampling of just how stunning the work of Kaha:wi is:
“Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (KDT) is one of Canada’s leading contemporary dance companies, recognized for its seamless fusing of indigenous and contemporary dance into a compelling signature choreographic vision.”Read more…
All of these organizations, programs, artists, and exhibitions work to dismantle the legacy of stereotypes that has stopped the dominant culture from seeing the dimensionality that we all carry within us as creative human beings as well as offer a critical voice regarding not only Canada’s First Peoples but Indigenous Peoples from around the world.
The below list focuses on Aboriginal arts in Canada and predominantly new media /visual artists. Stay tuned for a part two that will include much more!
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS AND GALLERIES THAT FOCUS ON CONTEMPORARY FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS, INUIT & INDIGENOUS CULTURE
ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Festival (Toronto) “The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival celebrates the latest works by Indigenous peoples at the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio, and new media. Each fall, imagineNATIVE presents a selection of the most compelling and distinctive Indigenous works from around the globe.”More info…
Planet Indigenus (Toronto)
“Since 2004, Planet Indigenus, in partnership with Brantford, Ontario’s Woodland Cultural Centre, has explored such ancestry and cultures through Indigenous artists. Through a 10-day, international, multidisciplinary arts festivals attended by over 700,000 people… Planet IndigenUS has raised public awareness, broken stereotypes and fostered a cross-cultural dialogue between Canadians.”More info…
Woodlands Cultural Centre (Brantford) “The Woodland Cultural Centre was established in October 1972 under the direction of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians upon the closure of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. The Centre originally began its focus on collecting research and artifacts to develop its library and museum collections.”More info…
Urban Shaman (Winnipeg) “Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art is a nationally recognized leader in Aboriginal arts programming and one of the foremost venues and voices for Aboriginal art in Canada.”More info…
Grunt Gallery (Vancouver)
“Grunt is an artist-run centre founded in 1984 in Vancouver, BC, with a vision to be an international renowned artist-run centre furthering contemporary art practice. Through the exploration of our diverse Canadian cultural identity we offer innovative public programming in exhibitions, performances, artist talks, publications and special projects.” More info…
AbTec (Montreal) “AbTeC is a network of academics, artists and technologists whose goal is to define and share conceptual and practical tools that will allow us to create new, Aboriginally-determined territories within the web-pages, online games, and virtual environments that we call cyberspace.” More info…
CURRENT & RECENT EXHIBITIONS CONTEMPORARY FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS, INUIT & INDIGENOUS CULTURE
Indigenous & Urban @ The Museum of Civilization (Ottawa) OPENING TODAY! “Live. Engaging. Diverse. Inspired and challenged by contemporary urban life,Canadian Indigenous artists address issues of identity and stereotypes through humorous and thought-provoking works. Indigenous and Urbanis a summer-long program featuring visual and media arts, music, dance, film, readings and interactive workshops.” More info…
IN THE FLESH (Ottawa)
“In the Flesh examines the hierarchical relationship between humans and animals within a cultural and museological context, and investigates colonial politics, as well as issues of gender as they relate to the mastery of the natural world…In the Flesh grants us visual access to nature while calling into question the politics of representation. As the guest catalogue essayist Ariel Smith notes: “With In the Flesh, the Ottawa Art Gallery participates in a city-wide indigenization of gallery spaces to coincide with the National Gallery of Canada’s Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art exhibition. This indigenization does not exist within a vacuum, and we must reflect on the ways in which these acts of claiming space respond to and are in conversation with both the current and historical politics of Indigenous cultural sovereignty.””More info…
Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art (Ottawa)
CURRENTLY RUNNING UNTIL SEPT 2, 2013 “Sakahàn—meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples—brings together more than 150 works of recent Indigenous art by over 80 artists from 16 countries, celebrating the National Gallery’s ongoing commitment to the study and appreciation of Indigenous art. This exhibition is the first in an ongoing series of surveys of Indigenous art. The artworks in Sakahàn provide diverse responses to what it means to be Indigenous today. Through their works, the artists engage with ideas of self-representation to question colonial narratives and present parallel histories; place value on the handmade; explore relationships between the spiritual, the uncanny and the everyday; and put forward highly personal responses to the impact of social and cultural trauma. The artworks range from video installations to sculptures, drawings, prints, paintings, performance art, murals and other new, site-specific projects created specifically for this exhibition.”More info…
“Border Cultures: Part One (homes, land) brings together artists working locally and nationally with those exploring these issues in Ireland, Mexico, Palestine to list a few. Using drawing and printmaking, sculpture and photography, video and sound-based installations, artists in this exhibition develop nuanced critiques and perspectives on questions of nationhood, citizenship and identity in the border-lands” More Info…
Beat Nation (Toronto) 2013 “Beat Nation describes a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity to create innovative and unexpected new works that reflect the current realities of Aboriginal peoples today. ”More info…
Fashionality @ The McMichael (Kleinberg) 2012 “Fashionality” is a newly coined term that refers to the visual culture and semiotics of dress and adornment. Combining the words “fashion,” “personality,” and “nationality,” it reflects the interplay between clothing, identity, and culture.”More info…
Poster for Fashionality featuring the work of KC Adams.
Not So Fast | NSF (Toronto) 2012 “Objects tell a story and reveal a history through the way they are made. In the current state of late-capitalism, value is often measured in terms of speed and efficiency. NOT SO FAST | NSFinvites a reconsideration of time and place to present different kinds of value. This exhibition brings together works by seven Indigenous artists who address the many products and by-products of consumer society.”More info…
2012 “In aboDIGITAL, Mi’kmaw artist Jordan Bennett examines the interface of audio-visual technologies and the internet with his First Nations heritage. Bennett’s art deftly blends such seemingly disparate elements as Mi’kmaq worldview, hip hop culture, ceremonial practice and graffiti aesthetics, creating dynamic works that express the fluidity, vitality and continuity of Aboriginal cultures in the present.” More info…
Decolonize Me (Ottawa) 2011 “Decolonize Me features six contemporary Aboriginal artists whose works challenge, interrogate and reveal Canada’s long history of colonization in daring and innovative ways. Deliberately riffing on the title of Morgan Spurlock’s film, the pop-cultural phenomenon Super Size Me (2004), the exhibition’s title emphasizes the importance of recognizing the role of the individual within larger discussions of shared colonial histories and present-day cultural politics.” More info…
Inuit Modern @ The AGO (Toronto) 2011
“The exhibition considers how the Inuit have coped with and responded to the swift transition from a traditional lifestyle to one marked by the disturbing complexities of globalization and climate change.” More info…
& The Inuit Modern Symposium
“Inuit artists and thinkers reflected on this statement during a three-part online symposium... It explored the questions: What are the current issues affecting Inuit art today and how has modernity complicated life in Canada’s far North? How has Inuit art changed the way that Canada and Inuit are viewed internationally?”More on…
Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years 2011 “A banner project for Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 Program comprised of a large-scale exhibition focused on presenting Indigenous art from around the world. This is an incredibly important show, featuring the work of a number of renowned Canadian Indigenous artists, complemented by some of the most innovative and engaging work drawn from Indigenous populations across the globe” More info…
The content on MIXED BAG MAG is about exploring the possibilities of what a new cultural landscape could look like in Canada. The people in projects listed above are our contemporary storytellers that are assembling an inspired mythology that has as its centre core values regarding the protection of our peoples and our environment.
Aboriginal cultural provocateurs are playing a key role in compelling Canadians to re-think identity and the national narrative.
LUMINATO – great art installations that engage the public making the audience part of the art.
This collection of images is from last year’s Luminato exhibit Soon is Now with Canadian artist Corno.
Corno transformed Airship37 in Toronto’s Distillery District with an intense shock of colour that felt like a crayon box had exploded. Fun, random, spontaneous and indicative of the unexpected you can always expect to find with Luminato.
“MAI will be the largest expression of what the artist calls the Marina Abramovic Method. Across a series of interlocking pavilions, audience members are guided through exercises and experiences based on Abramovic’s past work. Rather than creating the performance, Abramovic empowers the audience to craft their own experience, as participants don white lab coats and headphones, and disconnect from the outside world for approximately two hours.”More here on Luminato’s website…
“An interactive performance spectacle in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. Come one, come all to a life-sized arcade-style claw machine filled with useful objects donated by the community along with special surprises. As the artists themselves become the claw, see if you can manipulate them into delivering the prize you desire while contemplating this carnivalesque exchange of value and examining what winning and losing means to the collective.”More here on Luminato’s website…
One Thousand Speculations
& this just sounds crazy!
“The largest mirror ball in the world will make Toronto dazzle and spin in its thousands of reflections for the duration of the Luminato Festival. I don’t think that any Torontonian will have seen David Pecaut Square in this kind of light. It will be sexy, seductive, exhilarating and will amaze anyone from 4 to 104 years old.”More here on Luminato’s website…
On Saturday at Kitchener’s Bloomin Earth Festival on my way to see friend Dona Geagea’s Beyond the Jar table I discovered this really fantastic line of children’s clothing. Super sweet second hand tees embroidered with these funny little monsters made from scraps of other second hand clothes.
I love inventive up-cycling. I also like to see snazzy alternatives to the brand name kids’ clothing lines that in many cases have been touched by the modern day slave trade – other children paying the price so North American kids can wear trendy but cheap attire.
Not really in the market for shopping for kids clothing though I moved on but not without first noticing U Rock’s handmade greeting cards as I was grabbing for their deets.
Just like the little creatures on the tees and baby onesies the one-of-a-kind cards were adorned with these humourous characters that were too adorable to pass up. Perfect for the little monsters in my life, my 4 yr old niece (“I am 4 AND ¾s Auntie Leah!”) and 8 yr old nephew, the message was exactly what this proud aunt wants to say – “I THINK YOU ROCK!”
The reason I decided to share U Rock on MIXED BAG MAG was that after the launch Dove’s “You are more beautiful than you think” Campaign a few weeks back I was pissed that yet again, in some manipulated branded effort to promote self-esteem in females, the “message” still implied that our self-worth is tied to our level of physical attractiveness. HAVEN’T WE ALL HAD ENOUGH?! More on that later in my Part 2…
I had just come from spending a week looking after my young niece and enjoying watching her grow into her unique little self. I shared in her excitement when she learned 16 new words in 1 day. Determined and focused, I adored watching her take pleasure in her victory. She was confident and up for the challenge even if it meant struggling with some unknowns. It was joyful moment for this auntie to participate in but then comes the worry. I know what it is like to be female. As much as the world has changed it hasn’t. I want to spare her the years of agonizing over her appearance, of stitching her self-worth to whether or not someone thinks she is beautiful on the outside.
I am already crying for that moment she caves on the inside and her light is blown out by some stupid comment that drowns out all the good ones from her mother, her grandmother, her aunt. It’s a hard road to get back on once you get knocked off.
So when I read the story of U Rock I thought this is branding done RIGHT. Sorry Dove! Your message is just not that authentic. But Megan Goos comes from a personal place and when I started to talk to her young daughter Bianca (a budding entrepreneur and creative kindred spirit) you could tell this mom has done well! Her daughter has a strong light burning and she was confident in sharing with me the products she designed for U Rock – pins made from bottle caps and her favourite bead combos as well as necklaces. You can sense her self-worth is already meshed with what she can bring to the table as a creative human being. Again, you just want to find a way to keep that fire lit as it was refreshing to speak to a child not afraid to explore her own creativity.
Once upon a time there was a girl most would have labeled a super nerd – glasses, braces, preppy blouses tucked right in and buttoned all the way up. Of course, she had no choice about the braces or glasses, but the rest of her appearance was designed by fear. She would rather have worn rainbow sock with plaid pants, pink and red when it was still called clashing, or a homemade polkadotted neon trenchcoat. But she dressed safe, for fear of what others may think of her.
After she grew up a little she realized it was rather tiring keeping all this awesomeness buried inside. While trying to work out her “real” self with her younger brother he (intentionally?) played devils advocate with every item she expressed like for. Growing weary of her younger brothers tormenting she said “well I don’t care what YOU think. I think I rock!”
And to this he said, “fine, just put that on your shirt!”
So in early 2007, UROCK was born to help others like herself, build confidence in themselves.
Don’t try to be something you’re not, just to impress people. Don’t act a certain way just because someone told you to. Be who you really are – because who you really are is probably really awesome!!
By nature we are consumers – we require food, clothing, shelter – but it is good that more and more we have choices that allow us to vote with our money and make purchases aligned with our values, saying NO! to Unilevers of this world.
I applaud Megan for her amazing ideas and for the record – Bianca, I think u rock!
There is just too much treasure on tumblr to have just one tumblr blog so Mixed Bag Mag has two with more to come (stay tuned for music mashups with a world beat). For now you can find us on www.mixedbagmag.tumblr.com where we share lush visuals of things like public art, architecture, design, and anything that promotes a new way of seeing things. Since the start of February the focus has been on Contemporary Aboriginal Art by artists like Angela Sterritt.
Also, you can find Mixed Bag Mag on www.mashupstyle.tumblr.com. This space is all about great style that isn’t defined by one set of rules or determined by location.
On both tumblr blogs we curate content for 21st Century Minds because we believe our audience of change agents and cultural provocateurs recognizes that as we layer and blend our diverse narratives we build bridges that close ideological gaps.