The Curators and Conservators who worked on the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries speak on their work.
This week the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries has opened. To celebrate the occasion the NGC is offering tours all day Saturday with the experts who make things happen at the Gallery. All tours are free with admission.
SCHEDULE OF TOURS
10 AM KATERINA ATANASSOVA: Senior Curator, Canadian Art
Room A105 (English with Bilingual Q & A)
Join Katerina Atanassova, Senior Curator, Canadian Art, as she talks about the new installation of works by the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson and provides insight into the artists who shaped the Canadian art landscape in the early 20th century.
11 AM CHRISTINE LALONDE: Associate Curator, Indigenous Art
Room A101 (English with Bilingual Q & A)
Meet Christine Lalonde, Associate Curator, Indigenous Art, as she talks about the Gallery’s new installation of Indigenous art and provides insight into the Indigenous cultures who created the works on view.
12 PM JONATHAN SHAUGHNESSY: Associate Curator, Contemporary Art Room C218 (English with Bilingual Q & A)
Join artists Damian Moppett and Ron Moppett as they discuss their work and exhibition with Jonathan Shaughnessy, Associate Curator, Contemporary Art.
2:30 PM DORIS COUTURE-RIGERT: Chief, Conservation & Technical Research Room A102 (English with Bilingual Q & A)
Join Doris Couture-Rigert, Chief, Conservation and Technical Research, as she address the challenges faced in conserving, restoring and displaying works of art in the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries
3:30 PM GENEVIÈVE SAULNIER: Conservator, Contemporary Art
Room B205 (French with Bilingual Q & A)
Join Geneviève Saulnier, Conservator, Contemporary Art, as she address the challenges faced in conserving, restoring and displaying works of art in the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries.
The National Gallery of Canada opens its doors to a changed story of Canada.
Last night the National Gallery of Canada previewed the new hanging of the Canadian and Indigenous Gallery to members. Today the gallery is open to the public and FREE for the full day. This is a great opportunity to see the NGC’s reinterpretation of their space.
FROM THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA:
In these transformed galleries, the remarkable stories that have shaped our land are told through art. Beginning with art from 2,000 years ago, and ending with abstract painting in 1960s Canada, this presentation features masterpieces of Canadian and Indigenous art. See renowned works by artists such as Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, Norval Morrisseau and Daphne Odjig, as well as new acquisitions, including works by James Wilson Morrice and the stunning Naskapi
Also on view are thematic displays that explore the magnetic north, inhabited landscapes, Canadians abroad, and the emergence of Inuit art: a true testament to the rich and multifaceted Canadian experience. (read more…)
So much hard work and care has gone into these transformed spaces. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in an important conversation!
Tomorrow artist panel with artists Jeff Thomas, Rosalie Favell and filmmaker Isabella-Rose Weetaluktuk speaking on activating the archives.
“The panel of artists includes Onondaga photographer and curator, Jeff Thomas; Métis artist, Rosalie Favell; and Inuk filmmaker, Isabella-Rose Weetaluktuk. All three use archival images in their innovative artistic practice, and will discuss the ways in which they are reclaiming and re-telling their histories and stories. All guests are encouraged to participate in the discussion.”
WHEN: Registration opens @ 9:30 am & panel begins at 10:30 am WHERE: Library and Archives Canada (Pellan Room 2nd Floor), 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa
“Project Naming enables Indigenous peoples to engage in the identification of photographs from Library and Archives Canada. LAC hopes that members of the public will share their knowledge. If you know the names of people depicted in our photographs or have information about an activity, event or place, LAC would love to hear from you. The majority of individuals depicted in the images in LAC’s collections were never identified. Many archival descriptions relating to events or activities are absent or have dated information (e.g. place names, band names or terminology). Or information is based on original inscriptions and captions found on the records, and hence reflects the biases and attitudes of non-Aboriginal society at the time.”
Warming up winter with free Indigenous film screenings.
Asinabka, one of Ottawa’s favourite summer film festivals, along with the Ottawa Art Gallery is presenting Unikkaaqtuarniq: Stories from the North just in time to celebrate Ottawa’s favourite season – winter! On Friday an outdoor screening will highlight Indigenous filmmaking from the Arctic and will include “a continuous looping program of short films by Inuit and Sámi filmmakers projected in a theatre made of snow.”
Presented in partnership with Skábmagovat film festival (Inari, Finland), the City of Ottawa, the Embassy of Finland, Gallery 101, the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre and Winterlude.
Also, part of the programming is award-winning filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk
“In her film Angry Inuk, Inuit director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril joins a new tech-savvy generation of Inuit as they campaign to challenge long-established perceptions of seal hunting. Though most commercial sealing is conducted by Inuit in the Arctic, anti-sealing activism has created a perception of the industry that denies their central role in the sealskin market.”
Image: Oo Aqpik “Crown for Sedna” 2016. Provided by Studio Sixty Six.
Countering celebrations of nationalism with alternate narratives.
Graduating just last year from Carleton University with a Masters in Art History, Rose Ekins has already made her mark on the Ottawa art scene with her ambitious programming at Studio Sixty Six, a commercial gallery located off of Bronson Avenue. Gallery owner Carrie Colton trusted Rose’s vision allowing her the opportunity to consider how a commercial gallery could also play a role in creating a space for art that wasn’t just about saleability but also about provoking tough questions. “I was able to carve out a mandate for myself” and that mandate includes diversity not only in the media that artists work in but more importantly cultural diversity and the stories that get communicated through the work.
In an effort to offer a counter-narrative to the stories of nationalism that will be getting lots of air time in the 2017 celebrations of Canada’s Sesquicentennial, Rose has curated KANATA 150? a show that questions what the celebrations are about and who the celebrations are for. Featuring predominantly Ottawa based artists, KANATA 150? is “a nod to the origin of the country’s name,” and “presents seven emerging Indigenous artists reflecting on the nature of “Canada 150”.”
Image: Barry Pottle “Creeping South.” Provided by Studio Sixty Six
One of these artists is Barry Pottle, whose work documenting the Urban Inuit experience has previously been featured on Mixed Bag Mag. Also, the work of fellow Inuk, artist Oo Aqpik, will be presented in this show that roots Studio Sixty Six’s 2017 provocative programming that will include emerging artists Florence Yee (Menu of Exoticism) and Kosi Nnebe (Coloured Conversations) later on in the year. Originally from Nunavut, Oo is “well known for her roles in the Inuit language programs in television, radio and recently a feature film documentary, Arctic Defenders.” Like Oo, the artists of KANATA 150 are working in the capacity of activists and ambassadors of culture. Their work is about communicating to Canadians that it is a great risk if Indigenous perspectives, on where this country is headed, are not moved to the centre of all national debates.
KANATA 150? opens tomorrow evening and promises to be an engaging way to start a critical year in Canada’s history. ARTISTS:
WHEN: Thursday, January 12 @ 6 – 9 pm WHERE: Studio Sixty Six, 202-66 Muriel Street, K1S4E1
Free – Bar & Food
Physically accessible building
This event is taking place on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation
“The City of Ottawa and Government of Canada are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Dominion of Canada with events, promotions, and other ambitious goals to increase Canadian pride and patriotism. These festivities are promoting both the history and future of the nation state confederated in 1867. Canada is a country built from settler colonialism, which leaves the question of how the Indigenous peoples of this land are meant to participate in these celebrations. KANATA 150? (January 12 – February 18), a nod to the origin of the country’s name, presents seven emerging Indigenous artists reflecting on the nature of “Canada 150”.”
This weekend the city of Ottawa hosts two talented women. Filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril will be screening her doc “TUNNIIT: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos” at Carleton University, a CIRCLE(Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language & Education) event.
WHEN: Friday, October 7 @ 6-8:30 pm WHERE: St. Patrick’s Building (Behind the Residence Commons) Rm 100 at Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Paid Parking Lot P6
On Saturday night singer / songwriter Iskwéwill be performing at the Mercury Lounge along with cellist Cris Derksen.
WHEN: Saturday, October 8 Doors Open @ 8pm Show starts @ 9pm WHERE: Mercury Lounge
$12 Advance Tickets. More at the Door.
Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival returns to Ottawa for another year of unique programming.
This year Ottawa’s locally minded but internationally connected Film and Media Arts Festival, Asinabka, turns five. I have been attending this annual festival for the last 3 years and I am looking forward to my 4th year. I have seen it mature and grow its audience while still maintaining an important discourse with the local community of Ottawa especially regarding issues impacting Indigenous communities here on Algonquin Territory. Co-Director / Programmer Howard Adler shares that as “Asinabka Festival returns for our 5th year we couldn’t be more excited about our programming and our local and international partnerships.”
Each year the festival opens on Victoria Island at the site of Aboriginal Experiences, a beautiful location that foregrounds the Indigenous opening night film against the background of Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada – a highly symbolic vista. This year’s festival opens with Fire Song (Director Adam Garnet Jones), a film about youth suicide, sexuality, family obligations and future options.
Prior to the screening Indigenous Walks will be giving a tour that will begin at the Human Rights Monument (Elgin Street by City Hall) and end at the island where there will be a feast provided to the festival goers to share before the screening begins. Regarding the 2016 Festival programming “this is no doubt our most ambitious festival yet, showcasing more Indigenous film, media art, music, and performance than ever before, utilizing two of Ottawa’s best artist-run Centre’s for our Gallery Crawl (Gallery 101 & SAW), and continuing with our stunning traditional opening night welcome and outdoor film screening on Victoria Island!” states Howard. “There will be more delegates, filmmakers, and guests attending our festival than ever before, and there’s not enough room here to express how excited and thankful we are to host and present so much amazing art! Chi-Miigwech to everyone involved and to our faithful audience who return every year.“
Work by Geronimo Inutiq. Image provided by Asinabka.
Also this year Inuk media artist Geronimo Inutiq will have a solo show (ᐃᓱᒪᒋᓇᒍ – isumaginagu – don’t think anything of it) opening at Gallery 101 (51 Young St. Suite B). Regarding his contribution and involvement Geronimo says that Asinabka “gives us an opportunity to show and see contemporary original art works in a context that goes beyond inter-national boundaries. I am grateful and honoured to exhibit my work with video and images, and – with the Festival – help push the boundaries of what indigenous and Inuit media and art can be today.”
A little bit about the show:
How do you feel? Have you listened to your instinct today? What is your gut telling you? All the combined fields of natural and social sciences have elucidated great intellectual theories as to the nature and function of what we do and the reasons and functionality behind it. To Geronimo Inutiq, the process of artistic expression is an alternative language to all that. Guided by some sort of arbitrary intuition and abstract sense of aesthetics, he produces cultural artefacts that have been shown in galleries and museums in the context of contemporary indigenous and Inuit art exhibits and performance – both nationally and internationally. read more…
“Cowboys N’ Indians” by Alison Bremner in “Neon NDN.” Image provided by Asinabka.
“Urban Inuk” Jocelyn Piirainen is an “emerging curator with a growing interest in indigenous contemporary art. Her entry into the curatorial world began in with the first ever Indigenous Curatorial Incubator program, where she put together the “UnMENtionables” screening program and helped coordinate the “Memories of the Future” exhibition for the 2015 Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival.” This year Jocelyn returns to Asinabka to curate Neon NDN: Indigenous Pop-Art Exhibition at SAW Gallery (Arts Court Building, 67 Nicolas St.).
From her curatorial statement:
In an article titled “Is There an Indigenous Way to Write about Indigenous Art?”, Richard William Hill recently contemplated “in purely practical terms, how would you bracket off Indigenous culture? Where do you draw the line? No more pop culture?”Had certain Indigenous artists bracketed off pop culture, Neon NDN would have been something quite different. In this Information Age, pop culture is everywhere and it’s not surprising many contemporary Indigenous artists engage with popular characters from film, television, video games, comic books, even corporate symbols and brand names. Through interacting with, reclaiming, and repurposing popular culture, Indigenous artists challenge a number of stereotypes and Hollywood tropes that have been set against Indigenous people and culture.read more…
Jocelyn states that “for this show, I really just wanted to create a sense of fun and bring in lots of colour. The theme is pop art – and for Indigenous artists, this theme isn’t quite so new as one might think.”
Both shows open on Saturday, August 13 and their will be Gallery Crawl with a FREE Shuttle bus provided. The bus will leave SAW Gallery after the 3 pm screening (OKA Legacy) wraps up. The bus will leave Gallery 101 to head back to SAW after the opening of Geronimo’s show that also includes a FREE BBQ. Neon NDN‘s vernissage will begin at 7:30 pm. Stay for the Music Night that will start at 9 pm.
From the Opening Night at Victoria Island to the closing party at Kinki Lounge (41 York St. in the Byward Market) you can find the best in contemporary Indigenous film, media and visual arts at multiple venues across the city from Wednesday, August 10 to Sunday, August 14, 2016.
Curator Alexandra Nahwegahbow presents an thematically strong and visually stunning show at the Âjagemô Art Space.
Consider the concepts of Decolonizing and Indigenizing. One feels heavy with past burdens, forward movement decelerated by arguments with ignorance. The other is charged with the quantum lightness of dreams. The time traveller moves forward swiftly and at the speed of light arrives back into the present with a renewed vision and the tools to construct an imagined future. To Indigenize is to banish colonization to a peripheral edge, advancing over the primitive mess to get on with the business of building improved systems that dramatically alter the landscape.
Moving around within time and the power this strategy provides for transformation is what foregrounds Temporal (Re)Imaginings, the current exhibit at the Âjagemô, Canada Council’s art space on Elgin Street in Ottawa. Curator Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow writes that “in Indigenous traditions, storytellers and artists frequently challenge and disrupt Western perceptions of time as a linear, progressive unfolding of events. Rather, our stories and histories exist in places where time is round, open, malleable, and can fold and fluctuate.”
The exhibit begins with Carl Beam’s impactful Burying the Ruler and sets the intention for letting go of a colonial concept of time. This exhibit also presents an imagined future. While Canada is considering what ‘reconciliation’ with the past will look like as a cultural product, many of the works in this show feel unencumbered by history
They float within the space.Clouds (Hannah Claus) hovers on a sky blue wall.
They speak of time travel.Navigating by our Grandmothers (Rosalie Favell) is set in a scenery of stars.
They alter landscapes. In Here on Future Earth Joi T. Arcand “presents snapshots of Saskatchewan towns, cities and First Nation reserves in an alternate futuristic reality where Cree is the dominant language.”
They traverse the in between space of visions finding powerful antidotes to bring back from the other side. Meryl McMaster’s Victoria “explores the artist’s bi-cultural heritage (Indigenous/European) by engaging in an extraordinary liminal reality. Rather than viewing her identity as two opposing cultures in historical conflict, she fearlessly transforms it into a site of synergistic strength.”
At a time when centres of culture tend to slot alternate narratives in with reductive simplification, as an emerging curator, Alexandra offers elegant complexity. Beyond the concepts and cosmologies embedded in the selected work the choice of the pulsating palette – hot oranges and azurite blues – plays off the predominately white space to stimulate the eye, even energize the body.
Temporal (Re)Imaginings is both potent and curative, a compelling case for a future that is (re)imagined as it is Indigenized.
Temporal (Re)Imaginings closes this weekend on Saturday, April 30. Canada Council’s Âjagemô art space is on the main floor of 150 Elgin Street. Hours of operation 7 am – 9 pm.
Below images from top to bottom: Weesahkay Jack and the Great Flood (Roy Kakegamic 2005) & clouds (Hannah Claus 2008)
Detail of clouds (Hannah Claus 2008) image by Georges Khayat, provided courtesy of artist Navigating by our Grandmothers (Rosalie Favell 2000) image courtesy of artist Other Worlds (Alex Janvier 1984), Here on Future Earth (Joi T. Arcand 2010) & Alice from the series Modern Tipi (Caroline Monnet 2008) Here on Future Earth by Joi T. Arcand (2010) Victoria (Meryl McMaster 2013) image courtesy of artist
Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow is Anishinaabe and Kanien’keha:ka, and a member of Whitefish River First Nation with roots in Kahnawake. She grew up just outside of Ottawa and is currently pursuing her PhD in Cultural Mediations in the Institute of Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture at Carleton University. She has a strong interest in stories, oral history and Indigenous art and material culture, and believes that creativity, art and processes of imagining and art-making have the ability to change the world.
Rebecca 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.
Above 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 AmericasRebecca 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.
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.
LEFT: Rebecca Belmore at KWE opening. RIGHT: KWE’s curator Wanda Nanibush. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Image courtesy curator Lisa Truong.
“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.”
Photo 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.
Photo by Justin Wonnacott courtesy of Carleton University Art Gallery.
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.
“Tattooed Women” by Arnaqu Ashevak. Image courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts.
“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.”
“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.
After Hours at the Canadian Museum of Nature for Edible Arctic
Saturday night I attended the Canadian Museum of Nature’s After Hours Event. Part of the Edible Arctic Festival there was lots of yummy food using ingredients from the North. I had the best chowder I have ever tasted courtesy the Embassy of Norway. There was fresh-fried bannock with cloudberry jam, smoked salmon and arctic char. Inuk photographer Barry Pottle’s project Foodland Security occupied the 2nd floor of the rotunda and below his work was information about Inuit organizations like Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). You could also take part in making an igloo out of foam blocks while behind you the National Film Board’s “How to Build an Igloo” was being screened. I discovered that an igloo can be constructed in 40 minutes. It takes me longer to pitch a tent!
The Wings of Johnny May director Marc Fafard with Johnny May.
“The Wings of Johnny May” by the National Film Board
There was also a screening of the NFB’s documentary “The Wings of Johnny May” which included a Q & A attended by the director Marc Fafard as well as the charming and witty Mr. May. Johnny was the first Inuk bush pilot and after decades of flying and tens of thousands of hours in the air he now fully embodies the knowledge of the Arctic land. He has also seen his world dramatically change more than once. As a small child his family only traveled by dog sled, a mode of transportation that he says was “slower but more pleasant.”
The beautiful 3-D documentary begins with the love story of Johnny May’s parents. Johnny’s father ended up in the Arctic when he went to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was a young guy from the Prairies but he longed for the North. Soon after he arrived he met Johnny’s mother. He knew she was the love of his life so he stayed and learned Inuktitut and along with the love for a woman he developed a love for the land and its people. She gave birth to Johnny than more little ones arrived. The Inuit community adopted him as one of their own probably sensing that his soul had brought him there to stay. Johnny’s father was white but as the men at the Hudson Bay Co. said “he was more Inuit than the Inuit.”
Sounds like a typical Canadian story of intercultural love. Today these kinds of relationships are common. Most people don’t blink an eye when an interracial couple make a decision to build a life together. For Johnny’s father though it cost him his job. HBC made it clear they didn’t support his parents’ union and told his father he would have to pick between love or money. That was the world back then.
It was this same world and its xenophobia that allowed for a moment in Canadian history that was, as the director Marc Fafard says, this country’s Shoah – one of the multitude of moments that was about creating a nation that serviced a European legacy with a commercial agenda. Johnny was down South for flight school. When he arrived back his entire dog team had been shot. In the 50s and 60s, across the North, orders were often given by those ‘in charge’ to shoot all dogs.
Johnny’s wife was in the audience and she closed the Q & A with her own memories of that time. She was far away at a residential school, missing her loved ones in a world foreign to her. She relates that in each family every child had their own dog – that child’s little friend. Louisa would think often of her dog and in the letters she wrote home she would ask how her pet was. Eventually the letters no longer contained messages about her dog. As a child, she could not fully understand the omission and realizes now that adults didn’t share that kind of tragic information with a child. There was no way for her to know that her dog had been killed until she arrived back in the North to a home changed forever – a mode of travel, a way of living, a cultural landscape – wiped out.
It has taken too much time for some sort of justice to happen. Johnny lost 9 dogs. A few years ago the government paid him $6,000 for that loss decades earlier when he was just a teenage boy trying to sort out how to be a man in a world changing at an unnatural pace.
“This was literally a domination gesture” says the director going on to relate how these actions cut the Inuit off from their source of food by putting an end to their travel and ability to be self-sufficient.
So many painful memories recalled by people like Johnny and Louisa but despite defining moments meant to cripple them they are still here – warm and open – allowing us to become joined to those memories as witnesses. Hopefully we become accountable ones.
Over the last few days at Edible Arctic and ITK’s A Taste of the Arctic that warmth and openness was encountered each time I met someone from the North. It’s incredible to see that the human spirit is able to find a way to move forward with hope. Cultures and communities that have been devastated are beyond surviving – they are thriving.
Top, demonstrating throat singing at the Edible Arctic Festival. Middle and bottom, Food at A Taste of the Arctic.
A Taste of the Arctic Gala at the National Arts Centre.
At A Taste of the Arctic on Monday night the youth from the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program came out to do a fashion show modelling what I call #Inuit #Glam. Wonderful ambassadors of Inuit culture, these young women and men are always rocking some serious style when I see them out and about in the city of Ottawa where they live for the duration of their course.
“Nunavut Sivuniksavut is a unique eight-month college program based in Ottawa. Founded in 1985, it is for Inuit youth from Nunavut who want to get ready for the educational, training, and career opportunities that are being created by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) and the new Government of Nunavut…Students in the NS Program learn about Inuit history, organizations, land claims and other issues relevant to their future careers in Nunavut.” Read more…
Top 4 images, the Nunavut Sivuniksavut Students. Bottom left, Inuk Elder giving a blessing at A Taste of the Arctic. Bottom right, National Inuit Leader Terry Audla.
After a prayer from an Inuk elder the musical entertainment was provided by The Sundogs, Leanne Goose, The Jerry Cans and Beatrice Deer. Every band had the crowd jigging to melodies that included many different cultural expressions, incorporating both traditional and contemporary elements.
This may seem normal in the 21st century where mashup culture is the standard but hearing songs sung in Inuktitut with the inclusion of throat singing – all being performed in Canada’s Capital – this is a profound statement! Many generations of children were beaten in the residential schools when they spoke their mother tongue and throat singing, like so many cultural expressions, was banned as it was seen as sinful with no relevance in modern times. When language is embodied through the vehicle of culture, as the voices rise, the spirit is given the chance to be nourished.
Left, Nancy Mike of The Jerry Cans. Right, Beatrice Deer.
If you missed this year’s Edible Arctic at The Canadian Museum of Nature below are some of the highlights of the people, the food and most importantly the culture!
Top row, making maples syrup taffy and drinking Arctic berry tea. Bottom row, Annie Aningmiuq beading her seal skin clutches.
Inuk artist Jolly Attagoyuk showing his beautiful prints and drawings.
The Nunavut Sivuniksavut Students face painting traditional Inuit tattoo styles.