As more information comes to light about the past as well as the present impact of the Residential School System on First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada more ways of telling the story will manifest.
This year Toronto’s amazing Indigenous film festival ImagineNATIVE screened two important films – Empire of Dirt and Rhymes for Young Ghouls – that although speaking to the same issues, such as intergenerational violence, stylistically differ. This makes for a deeper reach as each film has the potential to draw upon an alternate audience.
Mi’kmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls is sleek but not without some grit. The soundtrack of obscure Blues tracks adds even more sexiness. I wondered if I would find this distracting from the character development and the weight of the subject matter. In the end I felt this movie fleshed out the varying perspectives that films like Empire of Dirt and docs on the program of assimilation of Canada’s First Peoples bring to the table. The heroine, Aila, is stunningly played by Mohawk actress Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs who roots the movie with her intensity. It is through her coming-of-age eyes we see the horror that is hard to breathe through but we also see the possibility of magic and hope expressed in her ability not to give up on the wonder of life.
During a Q & A with Jeff Burnaby after RFYG’s screening as part of TIFF Top 10 of Canadian Films a comment was made by a woman in the audience who had grown up on a reserve. She appreciated that despite the painful realities Jeff didn’t shy away from including humour in the film. She expressed that often that side is missing, that the portrayal of First Nations people doesn’t include showing anyone as having a sense of humour. Mi’kmaq actor Glen Gould, Aila’s father in the film, answered by saying that it is humour that has allowed Aboriginal people to live on despite hundreds of years of attempted genocide. Jeff replies that “humour is an important part of surviving through this as Aboriginal people” and because documentaries miss this element it was with intent that he made sure to add comic relief.
Jeff wrapped up his Q & A by stating that “it is up to all of us now, not just Native people, to carry the the torch.”
Hopefully with such films like Rhymes for Young Ghouls non-Indigenous Canadians will be inspired to share in the grace as well as the humour of their Indigenous brothers and sisters and work towards lightening the burden of the past as we all move forward into the future.
Toronto screening times Today: 1:50pm, 4:05, 6:20 and 8:35.
Following the 8:35 screening there will be a Q&A hosted by First Weekend Club and conducted by Anna Hardwick, followed by a casual cocktail/meet/greet at the Imperial Pub (54 Dundas St. E) with writer/director Jeff Barnaby, producer John Christou and actors Glen Gould, Brandon Oakes and Roseanne Supernault.
For the last 20 years Mongrel Media has played an important role in broadening the scope of Canadian film. Always beautiful, thought provoking and socially relevant, this year Mongrel Media’s Empire of Dirt premiered at TIFF and ImagineNATIVE. This weekend Empire of Dirt is at Ottawa’s Bytowne Cinema on Rideau Street.
Sunday, Dec 8, 4:15pm
Monday, Dec 9, 9:00pm
Tuesday, Dec 10, 4:30pm
“As in many Native families, Lena Mahikan (Cara Gee) grew up in the cycle of abuse.
Her father, a residential school survivor, was an alcoholic until he killed himself when
Lena was 10. Her mother, only 14 years her senior, turned to the slots and was
consumed. By the time Lena was 15, she was pregnant and, before giving birth, was
kicked to the curb by her mom. For 13 years Lena has been living, poverty stricken in
Toronto, struggling to make ends meet, being chased by her own demons. The
cycle continues and Lena is now watching helplessly as her own daughter, Peeka
(Shay Eyre) spirals out of control, landing herself in the ER following a drug overdose.
As her final attempt at survival, Lena decides to return home and face her own
mother and a past she’s tried desperately to escape. Empire of Dirt tells the story
of three generations of Mahikan women who are given a second chance to be family
and put an end to the painful legacy that has plagued them.”
Âhasiw Maskegon-Iskwew, isi-pîkiskwêwin-ayapihkêsîsak (Speaking the Language of Spiders), Website, 1994, screen capture courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.
It’s a great feeling to be in a crowded room and seeing that you are surrounded by people whose passion is making this world a more equitable and empathetic place. This is the first year that ImagineNATIVE has included an Art Crawl as part of its programming and judging by the large turnout it was a good call! Partnering with some of the galleries and artist-run-centres at 401 Richmond (also where ImagineNATIVE is located) Friday’s event was about “featuring contemporary Aboriginal new media art, commissions and retrospectives and artist talks by curators and attending artists.”
On left, curator Jimmy Elwood. On right, Executive Director of ImagineNATIVE Jason Ryle.
Love Sick Child at A Space
The crawl began at A Space with Love Sick Child curated by Jimmy Elwood and featuring the work of ÂhasiwMaskegon-Iskwew along with Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Adrian Stimson and Leslie McCue. Leslie’s work was particularly poignant. She explains that the piece was based around an Anishinaabe saying “Make your words as sweet as strawberries.” Poised above a rock secured behind plexi-glass is a funnel of strawberry juice that slowly drips over the stone the duration of the exhibit causing it to become the colour of berries / the colour of blood. The audience is invited to talk into a microphone and speak words to the rock. The words can be thoughtful or thoughtless, kind or angry. Leslie explains that the rock, like our bones, forever holds the energetic vibrations of the words. When asked how one can tell if people are speaking positive or negative words to the rock she says you can’t. The blood red juice drips regardless and like verbal abuse one won’t see the direct impact of the words.
Artist Leslie McCue in front of her work.
Photography by Tyler Hagan courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.
In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads at Gallery 44
Another moving work is “In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads” by Tyler Hagen at Gallery 44. This exhibit is part of an NFB web documentary which can be viewed at nfb.ca/crossroads.
“It’s a highly personal undertaking for Hagan, who, since obtaining his Métis citizenship, has struggled to reconcile his suburban Christian upbringing with the blighted history of the church in Indigenous communities.”
Left to right artist Tyler Hagan, Noa Bronstein of Gallery 44 and Daniel Northway-Frank of ImagineNATIVE.
Photography by Nigit’stil Norbert courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.
“Trade Marks presents a new generation of Indigenous artists who, through newly commissioned photographic, video and audio works, challenge working assumptions of who they are. The exhibition contributes to the recently revived conversation on what it is to be Indigenous in Canada today. It also considers how these artists have responded to the imposition of Western systems of classification on non-Western arts and how their artistic practices have been informed by methodologies of decolonization.”
Top image: artist Keesic Douglas speaking about his work. Bottom images: Curator Julie Nagam and artist Lisa Reihana. Artist Bear Witness at Prefix Gallery.
Lisa Reihana speaking about her work “in Pursuit of Venus” at A Space Gallery.
in The Pursuit of Venus back at A Space
The finale of the Art Crawl was the incredible work “in Pursuit of Venus” by Maori artist Lisa Reihana and curated by Julie Nagam.
“The video is inspired by the colonial 19thcentury panoramic wallpaper Les sauvages de la merPacifique(180405) which features European impressions of Indigenous South Pacific Islanders from accounts from Captain Cook’s and Louis de Bougainville’s journals, and reworked engravings by Webber and Hodges. Reihana explains that Les sauvages claims to be historical and is presented as such, when in actuality the wallpaper’s creators harvested information from different historical moments and relocated the bodies into a fictional Tahitian landscape, removing these Pacific people from their cultural, historical and political reality. In this work Reihana has restaged, reimagined and reclaimed the panoramic wallpaper by altering its original presentation of print form to liveaction video. She has brought each character alive with breathtaking precision of Maori and Pacific cultural practices and embodied knowledge. Each person on the screen resists the colonial misrepresentations of the past and present encounters with Indigenous people across the globe. Reihana’sin Pursuit of Venus is a live-action masterwork that unbinds the shackles of colonialism by producing a highly refined and dynamic video that brings forth visual poetics of Maori and Pacific cultures and knowledge.”
“in Pursuit of Venus” by Lisa Reihana courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.
If you missed out on last night you can still see these important shows tomorrow, ImagineNATIVE’s last day as well as in the weeks to come.
ImagineNATIVE, Toronto’s Film Festival focusing on film / new media productions by local and international indigenous artists, starts today!
“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. The Festival’s programming, cultural & social events, and Industry Series attract and connect filmmakers, media artists, programmers, buyers, and industry professionals. The works accepted reflect the diversity of the world’s Indigenous nations and illustrate the vitality and excellence of our art and culture in contemporary media.”Find out more…
This year’s international spotlight is on the Maori Nationhood.
“This year, we are incredibly pleased to spotlight the works of Maori artists from Aotearoa (New Zealand). The Indigenous film industry in Aotearoa has long been the envy of many Indigenous artists living abroad. Critically and commercially successful feature films are joined by award-winning shorts, ground-breaking new media works and an expansive radio network.
The Maori presence is prominent throughout Aotearoa and their population is roughly 673,500 or 15% of the national total. The Maori diaspora is also quite significant as more Maori reportedly now live in Australia than in Aotearoa. We welcome the Maori delegation to imagineNATIVE, to our shared territory with open arms, and invite you to enjoy and reflect on the Maori-made works.” Read more…
Catch the full line up of industry talks, master classes, art tours and of course screenings here.
Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art.
Ryerson Image Centre
6 – 8 pm
Runs until December 15
“Ghost Dance examines the role of the artist as activist, as chronicler and as provocateur in the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and self-empowerment.”More info…
Farandole: Perspectives on Western Canadian Metis Culture
Textile Museum of Canada
6:30 – 8 pm
Runs until November 14
“The exhibition’s title refers to a traditional French dance involving a chain formed as dancers hold hands, moving along in the leader’s path, captured in the cyclical relationship of collaboration, appropriation, and inspiration at the heart of Farandole. Exploring the ongoing connections between Métis and francophone culture, the exhibition offers a unique look at the continuum of high end fashion and traditional costume, storytelling, beadwork, weaving and embroidery. An innovative examination of 21st-century identity, Farandole reinforces the Textile Museum of Canada’s commitment to engaging experiences and creative practices that provide insight into our global context.” More info…
“Trade Marks presents a new generation of Indigenous artists who, through their various artistic strategies, challenge and interrogate working assumptions of who they are. The exhibition contributes to the recently revived conversation on what it is to be Indigenous in Canada today. It also considers how these artists have responded to the imposition of Western systems of classification on non-Western arts and how their artistic practices have been informed by methodologies of decolonization.” More info…
FYI – As Part of CULTURE DAYS curator Betty Julian will be giving a walk-through of the exhibit on Saturday, September 28 @ 2 – 2:30 pm. More info…
Manifesto’s Sacred Seven Art Exhibition& Heartist Pre-Show Panel Discussion
918 Bathurst St. (Dupont)
Panel Discussion (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org )
4- 6 pm
“HEARTIST A pre-show panel discussion and audience talk back about the growth of mentor-mentee collaborations in Canada, how they work, and add value to the health of the Canadian arts sector.”More Info…
Sacred Seven Art Exhibition
6 – 1 am
“The 7th Annual Manifesto Art Show will explore the notions of connectedness and evolution as we present thought-provoking works from over 25 artist across Canada and internationally.”More info…
Land|Slide Possible Futures
Runs until October 14
“Land|Slide Possible Futures is a groundbreaking large-scale public art exhibition which responds to a world in transition where the past, present and future collide. The landscape of Markham will be transformed by the work of over 30 national and international artists to explore themes of multiculturalism, sustainability, and community.”More Info…
For directions on how to get there from Toronto including directions for TTC & Free Shuttle Services from MOCCA on every Saturday starting September 21 as well as this Sunday, September 22 click here.
Lovesick Child: Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw, Leslie McCue, & Adrian Stimson
A Space Gallery
Runs until October 26
Opening Reception October 18, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
“Lovesick Child is Toronto’s first retrospective exhibition between A Space Gallery and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on Aboriginal new media pioneer Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw. His work with the Canada Council for the Arts and the Banff Centre on a number of equity and new media initiatives such as Drum Beats to Drum Bytesin 1994 ensured Indigenous presence within the new territory of new media and the Internet.” More Info…
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.
& considering how Indigenous Culture has a vital place in the current global landscape MIXED BAG MAG recommends checking out imagineNATIVE – Toronto’s film festival that focuses on Canadian & international Indigenous talent.
“imagineNATIVE is committed to dispelling stereotypical notions of Indigenous peoples through diverse media presentations from within our communities, thereby contributing to a greater understanding by audiences of Indigenous artistic expression.”