AS BLACK HISTORY MONTH ENDS: Reflecting on Wedge Curatorial Collective & Jon Blak @ The Gladstone

Jamall Brothers by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

Looking back and forward at the Wedge Collection.

A few times a year Wedge Curatorial Collective produces shows that explore Black Identity from the perspective most often located in the Caribbean Diaspora.

Image by Dennis Morris

My earliest memory of Wedge is back sometime around the early part of the millennium. Wedge’s founder, Kenneth Montague, had set up an exhibit of British-Jamaican photographer Dennis Morris’ work in his home (the original gallery space for Wedge exhibits called Shift Gallery). I met Dennis, who was in attendance, and became interested in the work Ken was doing as he was one of the people working to fill in the gap between fact and fiction when the institutions of culture overlooked contemporary narratives of Blackness.

Fast forward a decade and Ken has turned Wedge Curatorial into something much more than exhibits of photography. Wedge has become about conversations – around race, identity, community and culture. And Wedge has certainly played a part in working towards closing that gap by providing the necessary insertion of Black Identity into cultural institutions like the ROM with exhibits such as Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity.

This year Wedge has partnered again with the Gladstone Hotel and TD Bank for the “Then & Now Black History Month Series” to present local photographer and youth educator / mentor Jon Blak. Titled HOME Jon’s work is about reaching back to his familial roots in Jamaica while dissecting what it means to be a product of a culture here in Canada, that because of its hybrid mix, can at times cause feelings of dislocation.

Wall of Fame by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

Half of the exhibit was photographs of subjects located in Jon’s memories of Jamaica and contemporary youth culture. The other half of HOME spoke to the memories Jon has of the elders in the local Caribbean community who played a critical role in his own youth. There were several rooms full of warm and intimate images of tailors, shopkeepers, and barbers – all the enterprising individuals who added a new layer to Canadian identity while keeping strong ties to the cultural associations back home.

Oakwood by Jon Blak courtesy of Wedge Curatorial Collective.

One room was ‘stacked’ floor to ceiling with photographs that almost convince the viewer that the room is stocked with all the staples one needs to cook a satisfying meal. It’s the replication of the West Indian shop that speaks to the collective memory many of us have from growing up in suburban and urban Southwestern Ontario – a place where you could buy a ‘ting’ or two.

Image by Yannick Anton.

On the night of the opening the install was interactive with boxes of the staples come to life – scotch bonnets, plantain, and callaloo as well as loaves of hard do bread were handed out to the lucky guests while peppery corn soup was served hot and fresh by One Love Vegetarian Take-out.

Image by Yannick Anton.

The night was a reminder of how much the culture of the Caribbean has infused the culture of Canada. Maybe now the conversation about what is home will become less dislocating because of projects like Wedge that support emerging artists who document the facts of Blackness in Canada.

For more information on Wedge Curatorial Collective projects and shows visit their website or follow on Facebook and on twitter @Wedge_Toronto.

For more of Jon’s work visit www.jonblakfoto.com.

THIS WEEK IN OTTAWA: Omushkegowuk Walkers, Joseph Boyden, Soup Ottawa, The Jerry Cans + Saali, New Sun Conference & Meshkwadoon

MONDAY: Omushkegowuk Walkers Arrive!

We can feel the seasons changing! We welcome the spring and the Omushkegowuk Walkers from Attawapiskat First Nation to Parliament Hill today. If you missed being part of the welcoming party you can support them by attending the Potluck Farewell Feast at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church (across from the Supreme Court) at 5 pm on Wednesday evening. If you can provide food for this event please visit the Reclaiming our steps, past, present and future – Ottawa  Facebook Event Page for contact details.

You can also support the Omushkegowuk Walkers by making a donation.



Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence & the welcoming group in Ottawa.

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TUESDAY: Joseph Boyden, Wab Kinew & Waubgeshig Rice for CBC’s Canada Reads

Tuesday night authour Joseph Boyden will be doing a reading at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health as part of the CBC’s Canada Reads 2014. This event is SOLD OUT but the good news it will be Livestreamed. Click here for broadcasting details and here for the livestream.

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WEDNESDAY: Soup Ottawa

Wednesday is Soup Ottawa.

Soup Ottawa is a recurring micro-grant participatory dinner event. For a $10 entrance fee you get soup and a vote for the pitch that moves your the most! Everyone’s $10 goes into the pot for the lucky winner to put towards their initiative. This time round the presenters are: Indigenous Walking Tours, Youth Can Slam, BeadWorks, Death Cafe, TACTICS Theatre Co-op and Beyond Dawn.

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THURSDAY: YAO

This Thursday and every Thursday the National Gallery of Canada is FREE after 5 pm  and so is the Museum of Civilization just over the bridge in Gatineau. Nice way to get out of the cold and get inspired!

Also this Thursday is YAO at the National Arts Centre

“A multitalented artist, poet, passionate advocate for the quest for knowledge through literature and music, YAO is comparable to a modern-day troubadour.

Although his music is characterized by a sweet mix of Slam poetry, Jazz and Blues, his eclectic approach and escapades in various musical genre gives it a rich, unique and very pleasant sound.Read more…

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FRIDAY: THE JERRY CANS + SAALI

Friday is The Jerry Cans & Saali at Zaphod Beeblebrox, 27 York Street.

“The Jerry Cans will take you on a stroll through Iqaluit, Nunavut with their unique mix of Inuktitut country swing, throat singing, reggae, and blues, sharing a glimpse of life in Nunavut while challenging misrepresentation of the great white north. Nunavuttitut! Nunavut Style!”

More details on the Facebook Event Page.

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SATURDAY: New Sun Conference with A Tribe Called Red & More…

Saturday is the New Sun Conference at Carlton U (9 am – 4:30 pm Room 5050, 5th Floor, Minto Centre). A Tribe Called Red will be giving a performance. Other speakers include artist Meryl McMaster, Sandra Laronde (Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre & Artistic Director of Red Sky Dance / Theatre Company), children’s authour Michael Kusugak, and Jean LaRose (CEO of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network).

And this event also includes an amazing lunch by Wawatay Catering. My mouth is already watering!

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SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Meshkwadoon

Meshkwadoon: Winter Celebration at Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health

“The Winter Village Storytelling Festival & Meshkwadoon is a celebration of the First Peoples’ winter culture through artistic and oral traditions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis People…Alongside these wonderful presentations will be some of Ottawa’s finest vendors showcasing both Aboriginal and non- aboriginal arts and crafts.” Read more…

Part of Sunday’s lineup is a performance by madeskimo.

Saturday, March 1st, 10am – 5pm & Sunday, March 2nd, 11am – 5pm

Individual Day Pass $5
Family Day Pass $12
Individual Weekend Pass $8
Family Weekend Pass $20
Children under 3 Free

More details on the Meshkwadoon Facebook Event Page.

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All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

THIS WEEK IN TORONTO: Reel Artist Film Fest, The State of Blackness, The Artist Project & Building Black

Drawing of a black woman's torso and heart like a anatomical drawing superimposed on itStill We Rise by Rema Tavares, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference.

The body, the face, a space – artists’ ability to mirror who we are & who we can be.

This week in Toronto incredible talent will be gathering to celebrate but also critique.

Colourful painting of a man's torso in a suit jacket
The Introduction #8 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.

Black outline of the backside of a woman lying down filled in with geometric patternsAfro-priation by Rema Tavares, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference.

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REEL ARTIST FILM FESTIVAL

Logo for Reel Artist Film Festival Tonight Canadian Art’s amazing documentary film fest, RAFF (Reel Artist Film Fest) launches. Under the direction of the former Executive Director of Canadian Art, Ann Webb, RAFF became the sweet spot in the year for incredible inspiration. The Opening Night has become a big art star event with this year’s guest of honour Kehinde Wiley in attendance. Known for his vibrant portraits of black men that reference the portraiture work of Renaissance painters, Kehinde has (with some trepidation)  moved on to paint women. An Economy of Grace is the documentary that follows Kehinde as he searches for the women who will become his new muses.

RAFF will also be screening two of Art21’s New York Close Up shorts this year. The first is by LaToya Ruby Frazier, one of the artists short-listed for last year’s AIMIA AGO Photography Prize.

“Her work interrogates how the toxic postindustrial geography of Braddock, Pennsylvania has shaped multiple generations of her family, acting as a mirror for the complex social problems that beset America today.” Read more…

The second short is Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.

“In this film, Rashid Johnson discusses the fluid nature of black identity in America and its escapist tendencies, from the Afrocentric politics of Marcus Garvey to the cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra.” Read more…

Portrait of a mirror image of a black man with dreads and suit jacket
Portrait of Rashid Johnson from RAFF website.

Painting of young white girl lying down and tracing the lines of a damask pattern
Vivid Blue by Eric Robitaille, The Artist Project Toronto.

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THE ARTIST PROJECT TORONTO

The Artist Project Toronto LogoAnother great art party happens Thursday night with the Opening Soirée for The Artist Project Toronto. Running until Sunday The Artist Project offers three full days to experience beautiful work.

Eric Robitaille’s pieces show his talent as a graphic designer with stories emerging from the many colour washes and textural layers of his work. “During the last few years, the development of several new techniques has allowed for a more spontaneous and raw style, balanced throughout with meticulous detail.” Read more…

Colourful painting of a man's torso in a suit jacketThe Introduction #5 & #11 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.

Artist Samara Shuter paints crayola coloured canvases of men in suits because the suit “has represented something for decades; power, productivity, strength, economic prosperity, and hard work.” Read more…

upclose photograph of towers like city skyscrapers made of colourful lego
Lego City Tower on Hill Elevation by Laird Kay, The Artist Project Toronto.

Laird Kay has studied planning and design so it’s not surprising his photography reaches back to the concepts of city planning via the playful medium of lego as the building blocks.

“Lego City Elevation, Is it Dubai? Is it Hong Kong? New York? Singapore? Toronto? Vancouver? Or all of the above? Cities used to be the result of collective will and a desire to shape – to control – our environments. They were expressions of the things that happened in them. Now they’re about branding and image. Like plastic, like LEGO City, they’re no longer built to last – they can be pulled down when fashions change. LEGO City expresses the modern absence of community in city-shaping. Although stylized, these photographs of LEGO City show us how the line between plastic and uninhabited has become virtually indistinguishable from the “real thing”.” See more…

Image of 3 white styrofoam cups on white background
Tears in the Ice Box by Noah Gano, The Artist Project Toronto.

The technicolour spectrum contained in Laird’s work on how places start to eclipse our human essence with their artificiality is in sharp contrast to the minimalist whiteness of Noah Gano who also makes use of materials the are divorced from the natural. “Navigating through themes of experience and identity, he works conceptually in photography, sculpture, and collage.” See more…

There is much to see at The Artist Project and much to buy with all artists exhibiting work that is for sale and ready to find a new home. Plan on making a purchase!

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Logo for The State of Blackness ConferenceAlso on Thursday The State of Blackness Conference begins.

“This conference consists of both closed working sessions and public events. The conference opens with one and a half days of closed working sessions designed to provide opportunities for artists, educators, curators, scholars, and cultural workers to engage in intensive and critical collaborative discussions about the current state of blackness and the challenges and strategies employed to increase visibility. Emphasis will be placed on developing networks of engagement and knowledge exchange while developing methodologies and practices that inform the future of black Canadian artistic production and teaching.”

Labeeb by Abdi Osman, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference

One of the panelists is Abdi Osman a “Somali-Canadian photographer whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities.”

Also included on the public panel at Harbourfront Centre (Saturday 2 pm), are the artists Rema Tavares (work seen above), Olivia McGilchrist (work seen below) and Erika DeFreitas.


Discover Me…Series 1 & 2 by Abdi Osman, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference

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Heidi McKenzie, Curator of ‘Face Value’ from Heidi McKenzie on Vimeo.

Logo for Face Value Show

“What you see isn’t necessarily who you are”

Corresponding with the conference is the exhibit Face Value by curator / artist Heidi McKenzie.

“The way people look, and the way they are looked at, has a profound effect on the person being seen. For the bi-racial or mixed-race person, the simple act of being seen by others can be fraught with tension and ambiguity. The familiar unconscious act of identifying and categorizing a person’s race based on their face value slips beyond the concrete into the murkiness of the grey zone.”

Olivia McGilchrist Artist Statement from Heidi McKenzie on Vimeo.

(whitey) Discovery Bay by Olivia McGilchrist, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference 


Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

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Building Black at Daniels Spectrum

Another artist using Lego in his work is Ekow Nimako who uses the toy blocks to produce pieces that are about the less-than-playful issues around identity and racial narratives.

For the month of February his work in the show Building Black is part of Daniels Spectrum’s programming around Black History Month. On the main floor of the Arts Centre, Ekow’s work greets you at the side entrance and lines the hallway outside the theatre spaces. His masks reflect the cultural legacy Ekow inherited from his parents who immigrated to Canada from Ghana. They are each infused with their own personality and speak of the strength and tenacity of culture.

His other figures have darker stories which Ekow, also a writer, provides. Mounted on the walls is the poetry he has written for each piece. A golliwog sits less than comfortably, performing a stiff smile that would make Paula Deen feel nostalgic. The life sized figure of a child dressed like a flower girl is exhausting in its detail but also in the back story. Ekow was researching slave narratives and considering the lost girls who would never be granted the innocence of childhood dreams.

Flower Girl Requiem

Forever innocent they say,
Free from taint or world decay,
Pretty basket filled with blooms
Plucked from the earth none too soon.

Love she for all her hope and youth,
Her pretty gown, the purest truth
Her basket and the whites within,
The blooms of cotton, soft and grim.

The world can never seem so stark,
So bright, so safe, so cold and dark
As when gazed upon through childhood’s eyes,
For which my precious dare not oblige.

Alas, her aisle will not be strewn,
For she who’s ever loved is gone
The child of flowers, picked and praised
Forever innocent, they say.

Recent spread in Grid Magazine on Ekow installing his show.

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As part of the Building Black show Ekow will be giving an artist talk Talking Black this Sunday 3 – 6 pm at Daniels Spectrum, Regent Park.

More details and schedules for the events can be found on the websites listed below:

Reel Artist Film Festival (Wednesday – Sunday, Opening Party Tonight)

The Artist Project Toronto (Thursday – Sunday, Opening Party Thursday Night @ Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place)

The State of Blackness Conference (Open to the Public on Saturday @ the Harbourfront Centre)

Face Value (Thursday – March 2nd, Opening Reception Thursday Night @ Gallery 1313)

Daniels Spectrum Black History Month Shows (on now for the remainder of the month)

BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY: #HaveAHeart Day on Parliament Hill

Boy in snow holding poster that saves Have A Heart for first nations children

Kids standing in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit and Metis children

The best led crusade may just be a children’s crusade because today on Parliament Hill small but mighty voices were articulate in their demands for Harper to “have a heart” with regards to issues around education improvements for Aboriginal children.

Children with teachers in front of the clock tower on Parliament Hill with posters in support with First Nations children

From the voices of babes.

One wee one said “I am just in Grade 3 but I know the difference between right and wrong.” She continued by saying “Mr. Harper, you spend money on silly things like rockets that don’t fly.” Enough said.

And don’t think that these kids are buying it regarding the First Nations Education Act. They get it that a one-size-fits-all education system and dollars handed out with conditions attached doesn’t translate into equitable and culturally based education. They could probably put a lot of MPs to shame with their proper pronunciation of Anishinaabe and knowing that Turtle Island refers to the original name for the continent that the governments of Canada and America now occupy.


“Stephen Harper, we’ve got some homework for you, make our Canada a better place for FN education”

It means nothing if it’s not true.

These kids stood up under the shadow of the Parliament Buildings and spoke to the fact that the National Narrative of an inclusive society that respects human rights falls apart when you look at the Canadian government’s past and present relations with Indigenous Canada.

Kids from all backgrounds – Somali, East Asian, Palestinian, European – showed up and represented.

These kids get it. And on a cold, winter’s day it is what  warms your  heart!

#HaveAHeartDay!







“The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society stands with First Nations children, youth, and families for equal opportunities to succeed.

Using a reconciliation framework that respectfully engages First Nation and non-Aboriginal peoples, the Caring Society provides high quality resources to support First Nations communities to empower children, youth and families. The award-winning Caring Society is proud to work with our partners in Canada and around the world to promote the rights of Indigenous children, youth and families.” For more information on their services visit their website.

Follow on First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada’s Facebook page and on twitter @CaringSociety.


All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

THE MIX IN TORONTO THIS WEEK: Ichimaru, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Fatoumata Diawara, Jon Blak & Jean-Luc Godard

Black grafitti wall with faces outlined in white Corner of Richmond & John St. Toronto. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Are we in a new time and place?

In a Ali Baba franchise off Richmond Street in Toronto I sat with two friends eating falafel. It was time for the sunset call to prayer. The voice of an imam sang Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim out from the owner’s laptop.

One friend was explaining Métis history to the other friend originally from Paris. Mon ami parisien paused. With a growing look of elation on his face he declared how beautiful this moment was – the Arabic praise to Allah here in Toronto, traditional Anishinaabe territory, on a busy urban street while speaking of the Métis, a word that is rooted in the French for ‘mix’.

It was a beautiful moment that we, in this hyper-hybrid context of Canada in the 21st Century, can easily take for granted. But these conversations are powerful because they are the wards that support us moving forward towards deep and empathetic inclusivity. The power of storytelling!

And what is happening this week in the Toronto culture scene is storytelling from a multiplicity of viewpoints using various artistic mediums.

It’s going to be a great week!

Portrait of Geisha in black and white

From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru opens today at the Textile Museum, tomorrow evening is Anishinaabe writer / activist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson launch of “Islands of Decolonial Love”, Saturday Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara will be performing at Koerner Hall and “Home: Photographs of Jon Blak” opens at The Gladstone Hotel. Finally the French connection – the films of Jean-Luc Godard are being featured at TIFF this week until mid-February.

(left image of Geisha Ichimaru provided by the Textile Museum)

 

From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru

“The fascinating life of Ichimaru (1906-1997), one of the most famous geishas of the 20th century due to her exceptional singing voice, is told through this collection of her magnificent kimonos and other personal effects. In the 1930s, Ichimaru left geishahood to pursue an illustrious career as a full-time recording artist, but even as a diva, she continued to perform in full geisha regalia.” Read more…

Runs through to May 25, 2014
Hours Daily 11 am – 5 pm
Wednesdays 11 am – 8 pm
$15 General Admission
Pay What You Can Wednesdays from 5 – 8 pm

Woman speaking and holding beaded wampum belt with other panelists
Leanne Simpson speaking on a panel at Niigaan Gala. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

The Catalyst Café featuring Leanne Simpson, Tara Williamson, Sean Conway & Nick Ferrio

“Leanne teamed up with Indigenous musicians including Tara Williamson, Nick Ferrio, Sean Conway, Sarah Decarlo, Melody McKiver, Cris Derksen & A Tribe Called Red, to record writings from her book Islands of Decolonial Love as a spoken word/musical performance.

Renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation in her debut collection of short stories in Islands of Decolonial Love.” Read more…

Thursday January 30
8-10pm @ The Music Gallery, Toronto’s Centre For Creative Music
197 John St.
Doors Open @ 7pm
$15 | $10 students Purchase Tickets Here

Image of female singer in African and western style outfitFatourmata Diawara performing at Luminato 2012. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Fatoumata Diawara with Bassekou Kouyate

“Named by TIME magazine in late 2012 as one of the next 10 artists poised for stardom, Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara originally moved to France to study acting, and appeared in several films before picking up the guitar and writing her own songs. “Enchanting and blissful. Her well-crafted songs are often light and breezy, but her soulful voice brings a bluesy depth and potency that can stop you in your tracks.” Read more…

Saturday, February 1
8 pm @ Koerner Hall
Purchase Tickets Here

HOME: Photographs by Jon Blak

“Home presents photographs by Jon Blak that explore Caribbean Canadian history, culture, art and music with a particular focus on youth culture. Toronto-based photographer Jon Blak works as an artist and educational outreach mentor. Much of his work addresses racism, stereotypes, and role-modelling for young people. Blak’s images reflect the changing contemporary cultural milieu in both Jamaica and Canada as he examines issues around class, race and cultural production to celebrate the impact of community. Home will include an interactive installation, and a short documentary film by Matthew Mulholland.” Read more…

Opening Saturday, February 1
10 pm – 1 am @ The Gladstone Hotel
Runs until February 28
12 – 5pm Daily 2nd Floor Gallery

PRESENTED BY WEDGE CURATORIAL WITH THE GLADSTONE HOTEL AS PART OF TD THEN & NOW SERIES 2014

Godard Forever: Part One

“The first part of our massive, two-season Jean-Luc Godard retrospective — spanning the French New Wave master’s “Golden Age” from his epochal debut Breathless to the apocalyptic nightmare of Weekend — comprises perhaps the most innovative, influential and revolutionary body of work in all of cinema.”More info & full schedule…

Runs until February 13 at TIFF Bell Lightbox on King St. W.

MONGREL MEDIA DOES IT AGAIN: Empire of Dirt Opens in Ottawa

Mongrel Media – getting the story straight.

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.”

a post with collage of images of 3 generations of women from the same family with title Empire of Dirt

Follow Empire of Dirt on Facebook & twitter @EODthemovie.

 

 

 

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.

MAKE YOUR WORDS AS SWEET AS STRAWBERRIES: And Other Great Work at The ImagineNATIVE Art Crawl

Screen capture of thumbnail size images 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.”

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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.

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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.

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Photography by Nigit’stil Norbert courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

Trade Marks at Prefix

The show at Prefix is “Trade Marks” and includes more photographic and new media work by Keesic Douglas, Meryl McMaster, Nigit’stil Norbert and Bear Witness, curated by Betty Julian.

“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.

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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.

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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.

Love Sick Child @ A Space
Exhibition runs until October 26

In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads @ Gallery 44
Exhibition runs until November 23

Trade Marks @ Prefix
Exhibition runs until November 23

in Pursuit of Venus @ A Space
Exhibition runs until October 24

Banner for ImagineNATIVE film festival done in comic book style

Click here for ImagineNATIVE’s Full 2013 Programming Schedule

You can also follow along on their Facebook Page or Twitter @imagineNATIVE.

Unless otherwise noted all above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

THIS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND: Land|Slide Possible Futures – Sharing Food & Indigenous Knowledge

Bouquet of fall flowers in mason jar

Settlers came here – many to escape poverty and persecution in their country of origin. The Indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America) responded by sharing Indigenous knowledge such as the ways to prepare the local food during the harvest.

This Thanksgiving we can work towards creating a safe home here for everyone and consider Indigenous Rights as well as Aboriginal visibility in Canadian diversity.

Visit Land|Slide Possible Futures at the Markham Museum today and tomorrow for an engaging outdoor exhibit that dialogues around a deeper idea of diversity in our suburbs and cities as well as how to create sustainable communities on all levels.

& join the Idle No More Movement.

HAPPY (RE-THINKING) THANKSGIVING WEEKEND!

Carved wooden Indian figure in front of train car
Group of people sitting on grass listening to speaker
Woman sitting and smiling on the other side man speaking


Woman photographing a photograph of carved Indian figure in stereotypical dress posed in front of railway car.






Good for you tummy and your soul visitors to Land|Slide last night were treated to both Trinidadian and Anishinaabe comfort food with two types of corn soup and bread by artists Lisa Myers and Richard Fung.

More information on what is happening at Land|Slide Possible Futures this weekend on their website.

 

SUBTEXT AND THE CITY: Canada Know Your Brand


View from Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec while visiting the Indigenous & Urban Exhibit for Sakahàn.

The True North strong and free where nature is cherished and everyone lives happily ever after (?)

This place country we call Canada is kind of a mixed bag. ‘Multiculturalism’ in theory sounds welcoming but in practice can be problematic and is often accompanied by language that renders people tongue-tied and inarticulate.

So it’s easy to leave the talking to logos, slogans, and flags or monuments commemorating memories that are more complex than snapshot on vacay allows. But if you are willing to listen the city speaks!

Why not take a tour right now? If you click on each of the images below you can find out more about the work that’s in the picture as well as the artists and how each piece deepens the dialogue of the narrative of this nation.

Mixed Bag Mag would like to thank all the Cultural Provocateurs encountered while in the Capital visiting the National Gallery’s exhibit Sakahàn and offsite partner events. When it came to food for thought you each provided an all-you-can-eat buffet and I appreciate the exchange of ideas.

Harold Adler & Christopher Wong of Asinabka Film Festival

Jason Braeg – Artist / Curator and one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective.

Chris Henderson – Authour of Aboriginal Power

Greg Hill – Audain Curator & Head of the Department of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery

Alexandra Nahwegahbow – Artist / Researcher @allgussied_up

Jeff Thomas – Artist / Curator and contributing Sakahàn artist

Ola Wlusek – Curator at Ottawa Art Gallery

Also it was a pleasure to meet one of the international Sakahàn artists’ Nicholas Galanin. Nicholas’ beautiful masks can be seen inside the exhibit but outside, for the next week or so, you can check out Nicholas carving out another commission at the back of the gallery right by Roxy Paine’s One Hundred Foot Line. Suggested donation for watching the performance of what I refer to as ‘artist chipping away’ – a double shot Americano.

Thanks as well to Amy from the UK for being the guinea pig upon which I practiced my tour guide abilities. And to my other bunk mate Candace – Welcome to Canada! May it be a wonderful new home for you!

MIXED BAG MAG recommends Niigaan’s Treaty Workshops:

Niigaan workshops use “blankets to represent the lands of what is now Canada, and the distinct cultures and nations which live on those lands to this day. Participants represent the First Peoples; when they step onto the blanket, they are taken back in time to the arrival of Europeans…the exercise goes through the history of treaty-making, colonization and resistance that resulted in the nation we today call Canada.”

“Anishinaabe prophecy tells of a time when two nations will join to make a mighty nation. These two nations are the original people of Turtle Island (today known as North America) and the settlers of this land. However, it is warned that this mighty peaceful nation will only be built if both nations choose the right path. We all must understand the history behind the current political and social relationship before we can begin the process of decolonization. The legal history includes the treaties of peace and friendship, the British North America Acts, Section 35 of the Canadian constitution, the Indian Act, and the legal duty to consult First Nations; all these agreements and legal documents influence our ability to go forward together on the right path.  Our history is littered with forgotten events, either deliberately overlooked, or rationalized away somehow.” (cited from Niigaan’s website)

Metal sculpture of native man in traditional attire kneeling with quills. Canada's Parliament Buildings in the background. Metal sculpture of two men and a woman in armed forces attire with words reconcilation underneath them and antique church spires behind them.
Facade of old stone building, tree branches and fence of boards with phrase Idle No More written on it.
Metal sculpture of native men in traditional attire with eagle spanning wings above their heads, wolf at their feet and building with Canada written on it in the background.






Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.