OPENING TOMORROW @ SAW GALLERY: For NAC’s #CanadaScene #callresponse exhibit featuring #female #Indigenous #artists comes to #Ottawa

Image of #callresponse artist Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory (www.grunt.ca).

FROM THE CURATORS:

CALL/
To support the work of Indigenous North American women and artists through local art commissions that incite dialogue and catalyze action between individuals, communities, territories and institutions. To stand together across sovereign territories as accomplices in awakened solidarity with all our relations both human and non.

/RESPONSE
To ground art in responsible action, value lived experience, and demonstrate ongoing commitment to accountability and community building. To respond to re/conciliation as a present day negotiation and the reconstruction of communities in the aftermath of colonial trauma.

#callresponse arrives in Ottawa this weekend as part of a 5 site North American tour and started by Grunt Gallery, Vancouver. A {Re}conciliation initiative of the Canada Council for the Arts, the focus of this project is about “strategically centering Indigenous women as vital presences across multiple platforms” and is a “multifaceted project that includes a touring exhibition, website, social-media platform, and catalogue.”

The artists – Christi Belcourt, Maria Hupfield, Ursula Johnson, Tania Willard and Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory.

The responders – Isaac Murdoch, Esther Neff & IV Castellanos, Rosalie Favell, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Marcia Crosby and Tanya Tagaq.

Curated by Tarah Hogue in collaboration with Maria Hupfield and Tania Willard the SAW exhibition is also part of the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene programming.

From the NAC: 

Beginning with a series of local art commissions by Indigenous women and artists whose home communities span the country, the project is geographically expansive yet brought together in the physical space of the gallery and the virtual space of the Internet. Envisioning the initial commissions as a call to action, each artist has invited a guest to respond to their work. The resulting works are exhibited together alongside a series of engaging public performances and events. (read more…)

#callresponse opens Sunday, June 18 from 5 – 9 pm. For more information visit the Facebook Event Page.

Participate in the conversation using the hashtag #callresponse.

Check out one of the artists – Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory – on CBC Arts!

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND: Kwe at Justina M. Barnicke Gallery U of T Toronto & Skin Deep at Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa

Photograph of woman standing with her back to viewer, wearing casual clothes, jean jacket, hands outstretchedRebecca Belmore “Sister” 2010. Image provided by Scotiabank Contact.

“KWE delves into the complicated and fertile relationship between Indigeneity, art, and colonization. Kwe is the Anishinaabe word for woman and is a term of respect. Rebecca Belmore’s artistic practice engages the question of what it is to be an Anishinaabe-kwe artist working today through photography, sculptures, videos, and performances.” Scotiabank Contact website

Crammed into a confined space at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery are four videos that span the career of artist Rebecca Belmore. The combination of the tight squeeze, the darkness and the haunting sounds seeping from the headsets feels like an assault on the senses – as it should be. Because Rebecca’s work isn’t about being conceptual – it batters you, hits you hard, compels you to have some sort of reaction even if that reaction is to go deeper into denial because the uncomfortable truths she tells are too painful to wrap your head around.

woman standing behind glass dragging stones down the window trailing a mixture of blood and oilwoman holding pointed stone between her hands with water dripping from itWoman pressing her bloody hand against a window, see her face through the glassWoman pressing her bloody hand against a window, see her face through the glassAbove images of Rebecca’s October 2013 performance in Toronto. All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

At a performance last fall as part of the Symposium on Decolonial Aesthetics From The Americas Rebecca scraped stone, blood, oil, over a window from the outside as we looked on as witnesses from the inside. The blazing lights of a parked car in a dark lot (aimed at the window and framing Rebecca’s body in silhouette) summed up how murdered and missing Indigenous Women (the current count according to the RCMP is 1181*) may have spent their final moments. I’ve travelled alone many times. I think of the close calls I have had on dark roads alone in cars with a man / men. There go I but for the grace of some god.

Why her, that Kwe? And why not me?

On might say because “she was in the wrong place at the wrong time” – the English phrase, that in this case, is a misnomer that actually means she was in a place where one is caught in a web of systems (beyond her control) that ensure that oppression won’t quit. An Indigenous woman’s body is still genocidal ground zero, lying under the immovable mass of Colonial rubble. At present very little is being done to protect our Indigenous sisters.

Despite the tragedy, Rebecca’s work has a beauty, and I am sure I am not the first to say this, a spirit of resilience. The KWE (pronounced K-way) exhibit demonstrates her ability to embed elegance into any composition or object. One exits from the room housing the videos into the main room inhabited by photography with a striking and succinct presence – a woman’s back, a worn jean jacket, outstretched arms, gracefully positioned fingers reach out as if to soften, with her touch, the room’s sharp corners.

Gallery space with art installs, sculpture and photographySeries of 3 photographs of woman wrapped in white linen like a mummy but with head hanging out. One image she is upside down and hanging

In the series Untitled a woman is wrapped in the swaddled style of a mummified corpse. The spirit of the woman breathes into the negative spaces; her shadows extend beyond her physical presence. Rebecca’s compositions are laconic phrases that speak of life enduring.

KWE closes this weekend at the Justina M. Barnicke with a performance by Rebecca. The performance Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to their Mother Gathering will include taking the megaphone Rebecca constructed in 1991, as a reaction to the Oka Crisis (Kanien’kehaka Resistance), out of the gallery space into the periphery of the city – Gibraltar Point, Toronto Island.

We are living through the pollution of our waterways from unregulated industry, and both Indigenous people and Canadians need to stand together to protect what Anishinaabe people and scientists believe is the lifeblood of Mother Earth. Many Indigenous women have brought attention to the issue through water walks, which actively heal the spirit of the water. Come lend your voice to their action or just hang out in support.Read more…

This event is tomorrow, Saturday, August 9, at 1 pm on Toronto Island. Join the Facebook Event Page to find out information on shuttle buses from the Gallery and pricing for ferries to the island.

In light of what has happened this week around water this has become a more imperative event.

*NOTE ON THE NUMBER 1181: When I asked Métis  artist Christi Belcourt of the Walking With Our Sisters Project to confirm the latest stats on the missing and murdered sisters she pointed out that the number doesn’t include deaths of Indigenous women who are ruled as suicide but whose death might actually be a murder. This number, she says, also doesn’t include trans women. Or women who were lost in the system of  residential schools, adoption, and foster care. Or women who are non-status. So the number, in truth, is much higher. It is also important to note that Indigenous men are going missing and being murdered at an alarming rate.

Crowd of people with artist in middle, curator at the microphone smiling LEFT: Rebecca Belmore at KWE opening. RIGHT: KWE’s curator Wanda Nanibush. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

 

View of gallery with Inuit art on wallsImage courtesy curator Lisa Truong. 

Ink etching of abstract faces of Inuit people with tattooed faces

“Skin Deep explores the enormous importance of skins and skin clothing in Inuit culture, past and present. In Inuit narratives, skin is something that can be worn, shed, and manipulated. People tattoo their own skin to affirm personal and cultural identities, and wear clothing made from animal skins for aesthetic adornment and protection from the elements. Skin Deep features the tools used to hunt animals and prepare their skins; prints, drawings, and sculptures depicting stories and objects in which skin plays a central role; and objects made from skin, such as mitts and boots. The exhibition includes the work of artists like Ningeokuluk Teevee, Jessie Oonark, Arnaqu Ashevak, and Helen Kalvak.”

Man and woman in front of Inuit print of people in traditional dressPhoto of curator Lisa Truong by Justin Wonnacott courtesy of Carleton University Art Gallery. 

Inuit Art: Skin Deep is a small but impactful show selected with care by curator Lisa Truong.  The exhibit currently on at Ottawa’s Carleton University Art Gallery, opened with uncanny timing this past spring after a winter of (justifiable) discontent from the Inuit community in response to Ellen DeGeneres support in the banning of the seal hunt.

The twittersphere was alive with #Sealfies as acts of self-determination. Some guests to the CUAG show expressed to Lisa that they had no idea until viewing the Skin Deep how vital seal was to the economy and culture of the North and now understood  the reaction of the Inuit community.

Two women viewing seal skin boots behind glass casePhoto by Justin Wonnacott courtesy of Carleton University Art Gallery. 

Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril was one of the spearheaders of the social media campaign. Alethea’s documentary Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos recounts her own, often raw story, of how she uncovers the lost of traditions of tattooing.

With the coming of Christianity to the North tattooing became a shamed practice. Unlike other traditions that went underground but were still practiced in secret, tattooing disappeared. Alethea’s decision to tattoo her own face, initially, was not met with support from her Inuk mother. The shame around marking one’s body to embrace one’s identity as an Inuk person has been etched deep into the psyche of the Inuit. Breaking with traditions became a strategy of survival once the European arrived and took control.

Knowing this, when you see Arnaquq Ashevak’s “Tattooed Women” in Skin Deep you understand that it contains loaded histories and contemporary victories in its quiet presence. Much like Rebecca’s Untitled series, the way the women are wrapped by the bands of ink can be read as simultaneously binding and protective.

Art work with two woman standing with back to viewer, hands on their heads, both in tattoos lining their bodies“Tattooed Women” by Arnaqu Ashevak. Image courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts. 

Lisa recounts:

“when I saw Alethea’s documentary I knew I wanted to do something on the body and “Tattooed Women” was the first piece that popped into my mind. Alethea’s documentary shows reclamation of knowledge and a decision to go find that knowledge even if it is obscure – to go hunt it out – and place it on the body.”

Alethea’s choice to score her face with ink was a radical act of decolonizing her body. Her reversal back into time to bring forth a lost tradition will have dramatic impact on the future of her community. Already we see other Inuit women following her example.

Of Arnaqu’s work Lisa says:

“This piece is a reflective piece looking forward and looking back so on the right you have the woman who is representing the traditional body and facial tattoos as well as traditional forms of beauty. You can see ever so slightly the tattoos on her cheeks and two braids on the side of her head.

On the left a woman is clothed in tattoos that are contemporary, not to be literal, but as a symbolic decision on what parts to reveal and what parts to cover.

The way the women are posed, their arms up, they are asking people to look at their bodies. There is this gaze that travels across the body.

It’s a very warm piece and thought provoking piece because of the body language of the women – they are modest but have their arms up as to expose.”

For me, the power in this piece is the agency is expresses regarding women’s bodies and spiritual selves. As Lisa says, this work, like Alethea’s decision to tattoo her face “demonstrates the body as a place of political and cultural sovereignty.”

Art work of Inuit woman in traditional dress unzipping her head to reveal a fox coming out from her head“Shaman Revealed” by Ningeokuluk Teevee. Image courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts. 

The other piece in the show that as a woman moved me was “Shaman Revealed.” In a time when we desperately require (s)heros the unzipping of a woman’s skin to reveal the animal spirit inside speaks to the importance of personal transformation in finding the source of one’s influence.

The artist, Lisa says, “combines a traditional legend [the legend of Kiviuq] with contemporary flair. The story is about staying true to oneself and not criticizing others for being who they are.”

There is alchemic power when we reveal what we hide inside.

Both KWE and Skin Deep present the female/kwe body as the conduit of great strength and locate her beyond victimhood.

Inuit Art: Skin Deep closes this weekend at CUAG.

For weekend visiting hours visit the Carleton University Art Gallery’s website.

View of gallery with Inuit art on wallsImage courtesy curator Lisa Truong. 

DIVINE TIMING: Celebrating Indigenous Solidarity with Niigaan on December 10

Woman standing with protestors and the parliament building in the background

When a plan comes together in spite of it all.

When the curators working with the National Gallery of Canada came together to plan Sakahàn, the largest exhibition of Indigenous work ever held, they couldn’t have known that right before the Spring ’13 opening there would be a political movement that would globally link people in solidarity with Indigenous movements around the world.

When Idle No More emerged as a force for change no one could have predicted how quickly social media would spread the news like wildfire – #IdleNoMore#INM, #CdnPoli, #SovSummer, #Oct7Proclaim, #ElsipogtogSolidarity.

And as the Harper Government amped up its campaign of greenbrain-washing this country, a reactionary plan came together quickly because the seeds of change were already being watered and nourished and were ready to bloom.

And blossom they did! The internet was the fertile ground beneath the virtual commons where everyone who wanted to participate could look, listen and learn.

I discovered I could be in two places at once, morally locating myself with like minds via livestreams, tweets and Facebook groups (like Walking With Our Sisters & The Journey of the Nishiyuu) even if I wasn’t able to show support in person.

I felt I had a kind of empowerment that I never had before. I could have a say in what was happening in Canada now and play an active part in envisioning what it can become in the future.

I also felt the grounding that hope gives when you know that there are so many people out there who are willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of protecting the land.

Data collection allows for metrics around keywords and hashtags but what cannot be fully quantified are the relationships that have been made because of people coming together around a cause. A system of roots has now spread across cyberspace.

And those roots don’t just exist online. A year after Idle No More started I find that it’s hard to imagine my life without the people I have met due to the divine timing of a political movement, an art exhibit, and computer technologies that allow us to find each other.

Throughout my journey this year I have encountered many who recognize that  something important is happening –  things have changed, the time is ripe.

The Anishinaabe prophecy of the 7th Fire speaks of an era when people of all races and faiths will unite in an effort to direct the evolution of humanity towards an existence that chooses spirituality over materialism.

I believe that no matter our background we can understand this to be true as well as appreciate the importance of the timing – we have to pick a path.

Logo that says Niigaan with flower decoration

An organization that works toward facilitation around moving forward with strengthened relations between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians is Niigaan In Conversation. On March of this year, Niigaan held its first event to a packed out house! Sensing a need for constructive dialogue around Treaties as well as a welcoming space for Non-Indigenous people to learn about Canada’s troubled history Niigaan offered a much needed service in the months following the start of Idle No More.

The legacy of their hugely successful inaugural event lives on because of its accessibility online but the great news is if you want to have a chance to experience the energy of Niigaan in person this coming Tuesday December 10 in Ottawa, on unceded Algonquin Territory, Niigaan is offering us all a chance to celebrate a year of change, begin more new relationships and continue building a plan around solidarity.

NIIGAAN: IN CONVERSATION WITH RED MAN LAUGHING
THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE
Ottawa
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
5 – 9 pm
$75 per ticket or $30 for students / underemployed
PURCHASE TICKET ON EVENTBRITE

Bring your cha-ching for the Silent Art Auction with works from Christi Belcourt, Sonny Assu, Jaime Koebel as well as Kelly-Ann Kruger, Mo McGreavy and Shady Hafez

Man singing while playing traditional Aboriginal drums
People holding hands and dancing in round dance in front of Parliament Buildings

Resources to More Indigenized Places in Cyberspace:

CBC’s 8th Fire Series & 8th Fire Dispatches

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Website & Book “Lighting the 8th Fire”

Niigaan Website & Facebook Page

The National Gallery’s Sakàhan Website

Walking With Our Sisters Website & Facebook Group

Muskrat Magazine

Man singing with traditional Aboriginal drums Above images taken at the Solidarity for Elsipogtog Event on Parliament Hill. All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: Remembering 600+ Aboriginal Women Missing & Murdered in Canada / US

Barefeet of woman walking on carpet alongside the beaded tops of moccasins

Walking With Our Sisters Commemorative Art Installation

For the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples MIXED BAG MAG recommends participating in this project that moves nations towards healing.

“Over 600+ native women in Canada have been reported missing or have been murdered in the last 20 years. Many vanished without a trace with inadequate inquiry into their disappearance or murders paid by the media, the general public, politicians and even law enforcement. This is a travesty of justice.

Walking With Our Sisters is by all accounts a massive commemorative art installation comprised of 1,600+ moccasin vamps (tops) created and donated by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals to draw attention to this injustice. The large collaborative art piece will be made available to the public through selected galleries and locations. The work exists as a floor installation made up of beaded vamps arranged in a winding path formation on fabric and includes cedar boughs. Viewers remove their shoes to walk on a path of cloth alongside the vamps.

Each pair of vamps (or “uppers” as they are also called) represents one missing or murdered Indigenous woman.  The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women whose lives were cut short. Together the installation represents all these women; paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, wives and partners. They have been cared for, they have been loved, they are missing and they are not forgotten.”

HOW TO PARTICIPATE -You can join  the Walking With Our Sisters Facebook Group

HOW TO DONATE – By joining WWOS’ auxiliary Facebook Group “Auction for Action” you can take part in the 20 day auction to raise money to fund the costs of this project. Many talented artists have donated their work in an effort to help raise money.

Or make a direct donation the following ways:

EMAIL TRANSFERS
Are to be made payable to:
Walking With Our Sisters
wwos@live.ca

DIRECT DEPOSIT
Accepted at any TD Canada Trust branch to the community account:
Walking With Our Sisters
Branch #2406 Account #5208603

CHEQUE OR MONEY ORDER
Made payable to Walking With Our Sisters and mailed to:
c/o Christi Belcourt
133 Barber St., P.O. Box 5191
Espanola, ON
P5E 1A0

PayPal
Walking With Our Sisters Link

The tops of moccassins with beaded image of woman with long hair on either side, flowers aroud the bottom Vamps by Dolly Assinewe. View more on Walk With Our Sisters’ website.