Where have you seen Indigenous Canadian Art lately? by Irene Faiz
I have been seeing it everywhere!
- Behind Andrea Horvath’s head on my TV screen.
- Behind Stephen Lecce’s frame as he makes another announcement on Twitter.
- At the shopping mall in the winter coat section.
And at the art galleries and museums in a range of exhibits.
I have noticed Indigenous Canadian art and artists represented in several shows on my travels within Ontario since last summer.
In August 2021 I was at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibition on Rembrandt’s art from the 17th century. The entrance to the exhibit was through a longhouse. Yes, a replica of a longhouse made by Canadian Indigenous Peoples. It was actually a skeleton of a longhouse. To enter this exhibit you walked through the skeleton of a longhouse. The show began with maps of the settlements of Indigenous peoples throughout history. Interspersed in the midst of 17th century art by the masters, selections of Indigenous art were included.
In September 2021 I visited the McMichael Art Collection in Kleinburg. They very proudly displayed an exhibit titled, Uninvited: Women Canadian Artists of the 20th century. This exhibit also featured art by our female Indigenous artists. Beaded moccasins and hats, parkas, and baskets made from cedar and cherry bark are amongst some of the art representing our Indigenous women artists.
Elizabeth Katt Petrant, “Cradleboard and moss bag,”
In October 2021 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, I saw Great Whales: Up Close and Personal. Yes, I saw and heard Indigenous art there as well. A recording of the song, “All My People” was included for us to understand how humans and whales may live in different worlds, but we are together on this planet. This exhibit included information about how our Indigenous peoples performed blessings to celebrate the life and spirit of the whales when they died. We learned about the spiritual traditions of Indigenous Peoples and how they honoured these whales with ceremony and handmade artifacts such as baskets.
Ottawa. Toronto. Kleinburg. These are the places where I have been gallery hopping lately. And I have seen indigenous Canadian Art interspersed in the midst of a vast range of artistic styles and periods.
Is this intentional? I think so.
Increased representation of art by Indigeneous Peoples in Canada are finally being recognized in our culture.
Ever since the first discovery of the unmarked graves near the Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, on May 28th, 2021, we have been thinking about our Indigenous People.
Every aspect of their history is being told to us through their art.
Let’s look at this art to learn about the pain they have endured.
Let’s look at this art to learn their stories.
Consume their culture and also try to comprehend it. Invite conversations with our Canadian Indigenous Peoples. Be willing to listen.