P r e s e n t a t i o n s
Award-winning Métis filmmaker, educator, and musician Shane Belcourt explores Indigenous issues and culture through a variety of genres and media. Belcourt has worked on numerous film projects, ranging from shorts and documentaries to feature length films and heritage minutes. Belcourt also wrote and directed the 13-part POV series Urban Native Girl for APTN. As a mentor and teacher, Belcourt coordinates filmmaking workshops for Indigenous youth, while his musical career includes the production of a Juno-nominated album for the Indigenous folk-rock group, Digging Roots. The son of an artist and an Indigenous rights activist, Shane grew up immersed in Indigenous art and politics from a young age. In his filmmaking career, Belcourt worked on a series of advocacy videos for the Métis Nation of Ontario and shorts for the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. During this period, he came up with the idea for his first feature film, Tkaronto. Set in Toronto, the film addresses the nuances of urban Indigenous experience. While Belcourt had not planned to continue his father’s activist legacy, Indigenous themes emerged organically in his writing. After Tkaronto, Shane worked on several projects with major Indigenous artists. He collaborated with playwright Yvette Nolan to create A Common Experience, which delves into the multi-generational effects of residential schools from a personal perspective. In collaboration with Maria Campbell, Belcourt created the short film Apikiwiyak as a special presentation for the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival. The film situates the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women within the context of the colonial project. He also worked with dancer and choreographer Santee Smith to create Kaha:Wi The Cycle of Life, which celebrates Haudenosaunee history and foregrounds the role of Indigenous women in creation. Belcourt is currently working on an independent feature film entitled Red Rover, expected to debut in the fall of 2017 at TIFF. In the future, Belcourt aspires to make a Spielberg style film focusing on the life of Métis hero Louis Riel.
Mathew Nuqingaq is an Inuit artist, educator, silversmith, photographer, and drum dancer based in Iqaluit. Recently inducted into the Order of Canada, Nuqingaq is a co-founder of the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association and board member of the Inuit Art Foundation. Nuqingaq grew up in a family of artists; his father and uncles carved small sculptures to afford materials for their summers out on the land. His experience as a child out on the land has been a constant source of inspiration for Nugingaq. Using the landscape as his guide, he strives to simplify his designs as much as possible. Nuqingaq traces his interest in silversmithing to a Christmas sale he attended at the Inuit Art College. He began taking evening classes at the college, and soon fell in love with jewellery-making. At the time, Nuqingaq was working as a teacher, but he gradually quit his job to focus on his artistic practice. By 1998, Nuqingaq was fully immersed in his studies at the college. During this time, preparations in the community were underway for the creation of Nunavut. Nuqingaq was approached to be part of the collection committee for the new Nunavut governmental building. Nuqingaq chaired a meeting with numerous prominent Cape Dorset artists, and during this meeting, the artists decided to form the autonomous Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association to better support the artistic community. Around the same time, Nuqingaq was asked to collaborate with a team of artists to create a mace for the government of Nunavut. The group decided to represent each community with a stone, receiving materials from Inuit communities across the North. Upon design consultation with an elder, they opted for a symmetrical design featuring four dancing loons. The mace was unveiled on April 1st, 1999. Nuqingaq emphasizes the importance of consulting elders on his work, as they are the keepers of knowledge within the community.
In conversation with Jonathan Dewar.
Alex Janvier is a visual artist and revered elder of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent. A member of the “Indian Group of Seven,” Janvier blends abstract and representational imagery with colourful symbols inspired by traditional beadwork and birch bark basketry in his work. Janvier holds three honorary doctorates, and he opened his own gallery in Cold Lake First Nations in 2013. Janvier had a propensity for painting from a young age. At age eight, he was uprooted from his family and sent to residential school. He received some art training at the school, but his real education occurred over the summers while apprenticing with a German artist, who opened him up to a broad visual knowledge through a combination of study and practice. Despite his talent, Janvier faced significant challenges to pursuing his education, with the Indian Agent preventing him from pursuing prestigious studies. Janvier attended the Alberta College of Art and Design, and immediately afterwards he was offered a teaching position at the University of Alberta. In the mid-1960s, Janvier was hired by the Department of Indian Affairs to make a series of 80 paintings, but after completing the work, Janvier received neither compensation nor acknowledgement. After a few years, Janvier hired a lawyer and eventually received a financial settlement for his work. In 1967, Janvier was invited to help design the Indigenous people’s pavilion at Expo ’67. Janvier was fired from the project, received no compensation, and was prevented from visiting the pavilion altogether. He cites this as yet another example of how Indian Affairs never works for Indigenous people. In the early 1970s, Daphne Odjig invited Janvier and several other prominent Indigenous artists from across the country to form a collective: the Indian Group of Seven. The group brought a visuality that changed the direction of artwork in Canada, heightening awareness of Indigenous issues, increasing recognition for Indigenous arts, and introducing new themes and aesthetic strategies. A major retrospective of Janvier’s work curated by Greg Hill ran from November, 2016 to April, 2017 at the National Gallery of Canada.
Ruth Phillips, Wahsontiio Cross, Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow
Ruth Phillips is a professor of Art History at Carleton University and holds the Canada Research Chair in Modern Culture. The author of several award-winning books, Phillips was instrumental in changing relationships between Indigenous peoples and museums. For the last ten years, Phillips has been working on a major project, the Great Lakes Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures (GRASAC). Born in the United States, Phillips focused her early research on African art, but after moving to Canada and accepting a teaching position at Carleton, she switched her focus to Indigenous arts. Phillips received a post-doctoral grant from the Canada Council, which gave her the opportunity to look at museum collections across the country. For a period of time in the 1990s, Phillips was Director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, where she helped to develop the Reciprocal Research Network for Northwest Coast Art. Returning to Carleton with a mandate to develop collaborative research projects, Phillips helped to form GRASAC in 2005, which brought together researchers in Indigenous communities, universities, museums, and archives. Focused on providing digital access to Great Lakes Indigenous heritage, GRASAC’s database includes material culture, images, and language items. Central to the project is the consideration of objects as subjects, invested with a quality of personhood. Wahsontiio Cross and Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow are PhD students in Cultural Mediations at Carleton and research assistants at GRASAC. From Kahnà:wake Kanien’kehá:ka territory, Cross focuses her research on Haudenosaunee material culture, examining how traditional motifs and techniques are being used by contemporary visual artists. Cross also works on strategies for improving the database for community members. Of Anishnaabe and Kanien’keha:ka descent, Nahwegahbow has focused her research on tikinagan (cradleboards) from the Great Lakes. Nahwegahbow speaks to the challenges of being an Indigenous person working within museums. To address this difficult relationship, Nahwegahbow reconceptualises objects as “belongings”: as transmitters of Indigenous worldview and cultural knowledge that Indigenous peoples have a responsibility to visit. In the future, GRASAC will focus on creating a language module for the database.
(Due to a contractual misunderstanding Candy Palmater’s conference presentation was not videotaped. Ms. Palmater subsequently videotaped a talk for Carleton students which was added to the New Sun DVD collection in the MacOdrum Library)
Of Mi’kmaq descent, Candy Palmater is a comedian, broadcaster, motivational speaker, writer, and self-proclaimed “recovered lawyer.” Always drawn to the arts, Palmater grew up in a creative household. Palmater draws attention to formative childhood moments in which her creativity was silenced, citing these experiences as reflective of the insecurities and close-mindedness of others rather than a reflection of her own talents. For Indigenous artists in particular, their artwork was discounted as “craft” until recently. She stresses the importance of valuing your work as an artist, and as an Indigenous woman artist in particular. Speaking to her experience in academia, Palmater affirms that education in general has not been a positive experience for indigenous people, citing legislation that prevented Indigenous people from pursuing education and the residential school experience. At the same time, post-secondary institutions continue to perpetuate colonial agendas. When she attended Dalhousie University Law School in 1999, there were no Indigenous professors. Palmater stresses the necessity of increasing Indigenous presence in academic institutions, both as students and instructors. At the Membertou First Nation in Cape Breton, for example, they aim to have all Mi’kmaq instructors for their Indigenous student population. Indigenous peoples need to see themselves in positions of power in order to open up new ways of imagining the future. In addition to education, Palmater also sees artists having a major role in breaking down barriers in people. Early on in her career, Palmater saw her Indigenous and gay selves operating independently, but after seeing one of Kent Monkman’s powerful art installations, she was able to reconcile those two parts of her identity. In 2017, Palmater was given a Bonham Centre Award for her work in promoting public understanding of sexual diversity alongside Monkman, Lee Maracle, and Teddy Syrette. Palmater is currently working on an autobiographical book for a major Canadian publisher.
Synopses by Anna Eyler
Please note: All presentations have been archived on DVD and can be borrowed individually from Carleton University’s MacOdrum Library.
A presentation of the New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture
with the support of the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, the National Gallery of Canada,
and the generosity of private donors