Visual Arts created by our local Indigenous Artists.
Tonight starts the first of many art openings this month in Ottawa. SAW Gallery will host Mino Bimaadiiziwin (A Good Life) Art Show. The show is part of the Aboriginal Youth Arts Entrepreneurship Program.
WHEN: Friday, January 6, 2017 @ 7 – 10 pm
WHERE: SAW Gallery, 67 Nicholas Street, Ontario
Traditional appetizers will be served through the evening as well as entertainment by various talented singing artists throughout the event.
Entrance Fee by Donation.
Come on out!
The Parfleche by David Charette, 16″ x 20″, acrylic paint.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
Sowing the seeds of change in programming for youth.
All of us have a story or two about a moment that was magical and breathed life into the parts of our mind that weren’t aware that we could dream so big.
Ottawa based Anishinaabe artist Melody McKiver tells of her mother, as a teenager, meeting Daphne Odjig – one of Canada’s great artists. Her father had taken her to an exhibit in Dryden, in the mid-70s. That chance encounter, although short, was powerful and pivotal in her mother’s life because she never knew that a Native woman could aspire to what Daphne had become.
If you can’t locate yourself in the faces of the makers of culture it may be impossible for you to know that the light inside of you has the potential to shine bright. Which is why programs like Sakahàn Youth are so critical. We won’t understand the full generational impact of Sakahànon the Canadian cultural landscape for a long time but I don’t doubt it will be pivotal for this country.
LARA – “She was a young girl who had participated in the Sakahàn summer camp tours. I explained to the youth about “Āniwaniwa” and how a building that the community had a special connection to was overtaken by a flood. This flood was created by industry people in New Zealand who needed a hydro-electric dam to produce energy for the diamond mine they were putting in. She cried because I related it to losing Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health or the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and having love for a building. [The loss of that building would mean] not being able to practice your culture or traditions or have community gatherings anymore “because, what if the Ottawa River covered it all?” like the Waikato River in Hora Hora did? It was an example of how much this can affect our next generation. The very next visit, she was explaining to a new summer camp youth about Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa” piece – she was confident and she wasn’t crying, she was participating and had learned a little piece of Indigenous history.”
Maori artist Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa” is one of the moving installations at the National Gallery that communicates, in an aesthetically stunning way, a painful memory. I doubt that there is a single work included at Sakahàn that doesn’t touch on deep pain but with 150 pieces by over 80 Indigenous artists from 16 countries it is clear that there is a growing global movement to express and explore the best way to communicate the legacy of trauma to audiences of all backgrounds.
While visiting Ottawa from New Zealand Brett Graham had a chance to lead a workshop with the summer camp kids. With incredible experiences like this, where the youth are up-close and personal with some of the leading international artists of our time, they get the chance to have many magical moments.
The spark created by Sakahàn will give our youth the chance to go on to create a new cultural legacy for this country. It’s going to be amazing to see the artistic fruits that these children grow.
As well as partnership programs with the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition:
Sakahàn Youth Summer Camps
Concentric Circles – Artists stay at 3 local reserves (Kitigan Zibi, Pikwàkanagàn, Akwesasne) for 1 week
Sakahan School Programs – this program will continue past Sakahan’s closing date of Sept 2 into the school year.
“We need to hone and cultivate a group of artists right now that really know who they are, know how they fit into their broader community and then have a message. We need to provide spaces…where an emerging artist can be given a space where they have critical thought and get to know who they are and how they fit into the continuum of art and art history…how they can shape and change the way that the future can look” ~ Che Kothari, founder of Manifesto
As part of the Manifesto Festival, Walk for Youth Arts was a parade down Toronto’s Yonge Street that brought out arts activists, community leaders and cultural provocateurs to bring awareness and rally support to keep our city’s youth programs diverse, accessible and funded!
To give an idea as to the importance of these programs in the lives of the youth that attend check out these videos on some of the initiatives you can find in Toronto.
“The young people involved are here because they are innovative, because they are passionate because they are creative and in this city something is happening that I don’t think has happened before, not youth organizing, that has happened before but youth organizing that has the potential to be sustainable, that has the potential to create real change, not change that’s only going to be around for two or three years but change that could actually alter the fabric of the way this society is operating and that is amazing!”~ Amanda Parris, Playwright & Performer
“Using art as a vehicle for social change is something I live by”~ Boonaa Mohammed, Spoken Word Poet & Storyteller
To view more videos on the talent, vision and action of organizations and projects who are changing the landscape of this city MIXED BAG MAG recommends visiting the Walk for Youth Arts Blog.
Keep updated on how you can support this cause by following along on Facebook and on Twitter at #Walk4YouthArts.