“THE PEOPLE ARE DETERMINED TO PROTECT THE PINES”: Remembering Oka / Kanehsatake

Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance by Alanis Obomsawin, National Film Board of Canada

“They know very well what they are fighting for and its probably worth much [more] than nine holes in the ground.”

Just over a month ago the Turkish people came out to demonstrate in Taksim Square in Istanbul. The ignition – the desire to save trees. In an overdeveloped but ancient city, Gezi Park is one of the few green spaces left and the plan to rob the citizens of this enduring place for want of a modern mall was the final strike of the match.

In seeing the footage of the masses that showed up in Istanbul, I fantasized about the same size of a crowd gathering to protect the trees and the sacred natural spaces we have left here in Canada a land once so abundant with natural beauty but now being sliced through and whittled down.

Today is the anniversary of the blaze that started here in the town of Oka and Kanesatake community in Quebec. A developer’s desire to conform the land into a golf course was the fuel for a blaze that burned regarding human rights.

For the want of trees a population was ignited into action to deal with the deeper discontents.

The trees in Gezi Park were / are symbolic of the deeper discontent of the Turkish people with regards to their government.  Most people would be in agreement that the Turkish people, in their desire to save the trees, acted poetically in their fight for justice.

Was Oka any different?

END NOTE: Some of the land desired for development was a burial ground for the Mohawk people of that community. For over 400 years an Armenian cemetery was located in that area of Gezi Park. After the Armenian Genocide the cemetery was razed.

JOURNEY OF NISHIYUU: History Being Made at Parliament Hill Today

Aboriginal youth in a group with clock tower at Parliament Hill in background.
Image from www.Canada.com.

“EVERY STEP I TOOK WAS A PRAYER FOR MOTHER EARTH”

If the start of the 21st Century is teaching us anything it is that the small and simple micro movement has great power. Like a little pebble dropped into a pond we see the miracle of the radiating rings – vibrations that reach the far shore.

A few teenagers had an idea. Let’s walk they said. And they did. In a Canadian winter (all of us can relate to that kind of discomfort). Today as they reached the Capital as a country we had to acknowledge that the system is broken. All because some kids got up on their feet and decided to make a movement.

Congratulations to the youth and everyone who joined the walk along the way. I know there were also many of us who joined you in spirit by binding our hands to yours in our virtual spaces.

Thank you for humbling us all into action.

“WALKERS YOU HAVE ETCHED YOUR NAMES IN THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY TODAY”

Young aboriginal youth smiling at a supporter of the Journey of NishiyuuDavid Kawapit, original seven of Journey of Nishiyuu. Image from the Ottawa Citizen.

Check out their amazing website www.nishiyuujourney.ca.
Follow along on Facebook & twitter @nishiiyuu.

4 out of the original 7 members (Travis George, Stanley George Isaac Kawapit, and David Kawapit) celebrated their birthdays during the walk so why not give them a belated birthday present by donating to Journey of Nishiyuu cause!

Some great articles on the Journey of Nishiyuu walk to Ottawa:

Globe & Mail – Nishiyuu: A movement of Cree youth who voted with their feet

Canada.com – As Nishiyuu Walkers reach Ottawa, Canada should reflect on human rights

Ottawa Citizen – Nishiyuu Walkers reach Chelsea, their ranks swollen from seven to several hundred

IDLE NO MORE: Sharing in the Value of Contemporary Aboriginal Culture

Idle No More Logo with fist holding feather in front of Canadian Flag

As a whole we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Not only is Black History Month about celebrating the contributions African Canadians have made to our society but it is also about calling Canada out on its educational amnesia with regards to a history stretching back to our origins as a Nation.

Unfortunately the system has been slow to change and in the 21st Century we still have problems. The Idle No More movement shows that there is much to be done in acknowledging that as a whole we are greater than the sum of our parts. If there is historical or contemporary exclusion of any group of people in this country we all suffer.

So for the month of February, as we draw nearer to the rebirth of Spring, MIXED BAG MAG will be focusing on the process of cultural healing – what does it mean, how can it look, and where can we all go together?

One of the most powerful ways to transform our perspective is when we allow ourselves to see the humanity of another human being as shared with our own. Art, performance, music, and storytelling create spaces of understanding. As we watch with our eyes, listen with our ears, often our hearts open as well.

African symbol called Sankofa two curvy lines meeting in the shape of a heartTo kick off Black History Month in the spirit of Sankofa (an African symbol that means to look back at where you have come to understand where you are going) Mixed Bag Mag is going back to the source of this continent by showcasing and posting on Aboriginal Artists as Cultural Provocateurs.

In Toronto we are lucky to have some great events taking place this week into the next.

Logo for A Tribe Called Red, feathers like a headdress around a pair of headphones

WEDNESDAY at the AGO (6 pm at Jackman Hall) is an artist talk with Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red moderated by artist and educator David General. This event is hosted by OCAD University’s Aboriginal Visual Culture Program. More info on this event here!

Contemporary Aboriginal Woman
Image from www.powerplant.org.

On now at the Power Plant (on until May 5) is the exhibition Beat Nation.

“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. #PPBeatNation(cited from www.powerplant.org)

Block cut printed poster of First Nations man in traditional dress with banner Indigenous Sovereignty Means Immigrant Rights Image from www.justseeds.org.

FRIDAY is the opening (6 – 10 pm) of JustSeeds: Migration Now!

“Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative is a decentralized network of 24 artists committed to making print and design work that reflects a radical social, environmental, and political stance. With members working from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, Justseeds operates both as a unified collaboration of similarly minded printmakers and as a loose collection of creative individuals with unique viewpoints and working methods. We believe in the transformative power of personal expression in concert with collective action. To this end, we produce collective portfolios, contribute graphics to grassroots struggles for justice, work collaboratively both in- and outside the co-op, build large sculptural installations in galleries, and wheatpaste on the streets – all while offering each other daily support as allies and friends.” (cited from www.justseeds.org)

This exhibition runs from February 8 – 14 at the OCADU Graduate Gallery at 205 Richmond St. West.

Mixed media collage of Aboriginal Woman with wind turbines and upside down trees bordering the image
Work by Shelley Niro. Image from Akimbo.

SATURDAY at Ryerson is the  “Pictures of by Indians” Symposium.

“Pictures of By Indians is a one-day symposium and discussion of photo-based art, culture and decolonization. This free public presentation will examine these issues through the practices of five internationally acclaimed Indigenous artists, and provide an opportunity to engage with the ways in which Indigenous photographic practices shape art and cultural discourses in Canada. The work of these artists represents a vast landscape of Indigenous artistic research, methodology and practice in the field of Indigenous photo-based arts and activism: Scott Benesiinaabandan, Rosalie Favell, Mary Longman, Shelley Niro and Jeff Thomas.” (cited from www.ryerson.ca/ric)

A joyful crowd of African Americans jeering white police man during civil rights movement
Image from www.ryerson.ca/ric.

Also at Ryerson Image Centre until April 14 is Human Rights Human Wrongs an amazing exhibit by British curator Mark Sealy of Autograph ABP.

“Using the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a point of departure, HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS examines whether images of political struggle, suffering and victims of violence work for or against humanitarian objectives, especially when considering questions of race, representation, ethical responsibility and the cultural position of the photographer.” (cited from www.ryerson.ca/ric)

Portrait of young blonde woman with hair in bun
Image from www.thepowerplant.org.

Sunday take advantage of Power Plant’s “Sunday Scene” where a guest comes to give a talk and tour of the latest exhibits. This Sunday artist and writer Kristie McDonald will be giving on Beat Nation.

“Kristie MacDonald is an artist and writer who lives and works in Toronto. She is currently the Archivist at Vtape. Her art practice engages notions of the archive and the collection, as well as their roles in the evolving meanings and contextual histories of images and artifacts. Kristie holds a BFA from York University specializing in Visual Arts, and an MI from the University of Toronto specializing in Archival Studies. MacDonald will speak about our current exhibition Beat Nation.”(cited from www.thepowerplant.org)

black and white headshots of middle age woman and young man
Image from www.powerplant.org.

Wednesday of next week return to Power Plant for In Conversation with Bonnie Devine and Dylan Miner.

“Bonnie Devine and Dylan Miner will discuss the emergence and significance of the artist/activist in historic and contemporary Indigenous aesthetic practice. Their conversation will address the convergence of art-making and political action to affect social change.” (cited from www.thepowerplant.org)

More events will be happening around the Beat Nation exhibit. You can find out more about each of them at www.thepowerplant.org.

Colourful wood block cut print poster with North and South American continents surronding by peace doves
Image from www.justseeds.org.

 

PLANET INDIGENUS GOES TO THE McMICHAEL: Considering National Identity in Fashion / Art

Fashionality Exhibit at the McMichael

FASHIONALITY : Dress & Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art

Feeling like you need to get out of the city even if only for a few hours? Here is your opportunity!

As part of the Planet IndigenUS Festival at Harbourfront a shuttle service is taking off Thursday at 12:30 pm to head up North where the air is fresher, the trees maybe a little greener but style and sophistication will not be lacking at the final destination – The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg, Ontario.

The McMichael is an important Canadian gallery and on until September 3 is an interesting exhibit that takes a look at the assembling of fashion with the visual arts and “what it means to be woven into Canada’s national fabric”.

“Fashionality:

1. One’s personality expressed in their clothing, “fashion personality.”
2. One’s nationality expressed in their clothing, “fashion nationality.”

– The Urban Dictionary


“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. The exhibition surrounds this theme, and explores the work of twenty-three contemporary Canadian artists who have employed apparel as a primary medium, subject or sign. Reflecting wide geographic and cultural diversity, it focuses upon the ways in which the concerns, identities, and aesthetics of those living in Canada are expressed, deconstructed, and reconfigured through the idiom of dress.”  Read more on the McMichael Gallery website

This particular tour of the exhibit will be from an Aboriginal perspective and will feature discussion around the works of Aboriginal artists featured in the exhibit  – Kent Monkman, K C Adams, Lori Blondeau, Dana Claxton and Meryl McMaster.

The Shuttle bus leaves Harbourfront Center at 12:30 pm on Thursday, August 16 and departs from the McMichael at 4pm arriving back in Toronto by approximately 5 pm. More info on the shuttle bus here.

Visit Harbourfront’s website for more on the Planet IndigenUS Festival programming or follow the festival on Facebook and twitter @PlanetIndigenUS

Follow The McMichael on Facebook or twitter @mcacgallery