indigenous-contemporary-art

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun | Portrait of a Residential School Child. 2005

Yuxweluptun’s strategy is to document and promote change in contemporary Indigenous history using Coast Salish cosmology, Northwest Coast formal design elements, and the Western landscape tradition. His painted works explore political, environmental, and cultural issues. His personal and socio-political experiences enhance this practice of documentation.

Yuxweluptun style has often been likened to surrealism but he prefers to call it “visionism”. “The symbolic forms are interchangeable, based on my needs when I make a painting,” he says in his artist’s statement. “The symbolism transforms into landscape and other forms to create a vision.”

Kent Monkman | Study for Black Robe. 2017

Monkman captures many scenes in his more recent work of the stories behind the abduction of Indigenous children by the Canadian Government and Christian religious leaders across Canada during the over 100 years that Canadian Indian Residential Schools were functioning, as well as the decades that saw Indigenous children removed from their homes and placed into foster programmes against the will of their parents–titled the ‘sixties scoop’.

July 1st 2017 marks the 150th birthday of Canada. It is important to think on what 150 years actually mean in this context.  What we are ‘celebrating’ and whose voices and experiences are still being denied a platform.

Canada 150 is a celebration of Indigenous Genocide, of Colonization, and of Broken Treaties and Promises.

Ossie Michelin | Mi'kmaq Woman. 2013

Michelin’s photo of a Mi'kmaq woman praying during the 2013 fight against fracking in New Brunswick became iconic and is now part is part an exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

Mi'kmaq Woman captures Amanda Polchies kneeling in front of a line of police while holding an eagle feather. Polchies was one of the many Indigenous peoples from across Atlantic Canada that came out to protest the fracking happening in 2013.

Jimmie Durham | Self Portrait. 1986

Durham can be seen exploring the problematic notion of the “Indian” in his piece ‘Self Portrait’. Asking the audience who decides your identity and where does Indigenous agency come from in a world that only wants an ‘Imaginary Indian’.

Emily Karaka | Te Uri O Te Ao. 1995

Emily Karaka powerfully combines art with politics as her exuberant protests and contestations spill out across large, loose canvasses. Responding to broken contracts with her ancestors from Tämaki makau-rau, Karaka paints a huge ruru or owl which hovers high on the canvas. The ruru is often a bearer of ill omen: here, wings spread to reveal a cacophony of painted cries, she looks out of the painting, weeping. At a time when the New Zealand government has privatised or sold off numerous publicly-owned assets, to the chagrin of many New Zealanders, Karaka weaves a dense tapestry of paint, criticising both past and present government practice; her overwhelming message, painted across the top of Te Uri o Te Ao, is ‘This land is Mäori land’. Although drawing on modernist styles from Europe and the USA, and inspired by New Zealand painters Philip Clairmont, Allan Maddox and Colin McCahon, the art of Emily Karaka is born from indigenous struggle. She is sometimes tagged as New Zealand’s 'difficult’ artist but her concerns for indigenous sovereignty, personal freedom, and honouring political and social obligations are both individual and universal. Karaka’s raw and edgy art is a conscience call to all New Zealanders. (from The Guide, 2001)

Rosalie Favell | I awoke to find my spirit had returned. 1999

From the series Plain(s) Warrior Artist, Favell is seen here working with Louis Riel’s last words “My people will sleep for one hundred years and when they awake it will be the artist that gives them their spirit back…”

Early forms of photoshop are used in this image, as Favell edits herself front and centre of the famous scene of The Wizard of Oz.  Favell places herself in the role of the heroine of the film and while taking up the viewpoint enforcing acknowledgement of her Metis heritage in doing so. Favell lies in bed covered in a Hudson Bay Blanket while Louis Riel seems to check in on her.

The assertion of Favell’s Metis imagery into such a well-known piece of White Settler ‘culture’ be interpreted as a form of resistance via occupation. This assertion of Metis identity is powerful with the addition of the Hudson Bay blanket, thinking about what that blanket and pattern can mean for many Indigenous people and specifically the Metis connection to the Fur trade and the HBC.  Louis Riel too adds this persistence of resistance as from all angles contemporary and historical Metis identity is being inserted into the scene. Keeping Favell’s own image in colour brings forth her own identity as present and rejects the notion of Indigenous people/culture being in the past. 

Favell inserts herself and her heritage onto the predominant oppressive culture and in doing so brings her own identity into the foreground in an act of resistance to White Settler culture and oppression.

Nadia Myre | Indian Act. 1999 and 2002

Nadia Myre’s ‘Indian Act’ addresses the realities of colonization and the broken promises and contracts made between the Indigenous people and the Settlers.

‘Indian Act’ is made up of all 56 pages of the Federal Government’s Indian Act mounted on cloth and sewn over with red and white glass beads. Each word is replaced with white beads sewn into the document; the red beads replace the negative space.

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KC Adams | Perception Series

KC Adam’s Perception Series juxtaposes Colonial/Settler ideas and notions of Indigenous peoples against self determined definitions put forth by the individual portrayed.

This series pushes against the Colonial gaze by being exhibited in public spaces, forcing people to acknowledge prejudices they hold while also putting forth a face and identity to the Indigenous people of the city/community the Series in shown in.