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August 15 – August 15, 2020
On January 11, 2013 artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle took the stage to sing a song during an Idle No More event held at the Revival Club in Toronto. This song, written in Nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) with her long-time collaborator Joseph Naytowhow, plays off an earlier version, titled kitaskinanaw, which translates roughly to “our land together.” The song acknowledges the land visually and shows a relationship and engagement with the land from the perspective of the singer by referring to the four directions. That night at the Revival Club, Cheryl sang the song with a revised title and lyrics, kitaskîhkânaw, thereby changing the meaning of the lyric to: “our reserve/fake land together.”
This song draws attention to the inherently political relationships that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples hold with the land, and with each other. Common understandings of this relationship have historically tended to undermine Indigenous perspectives and world-views in ways that foreclose discussions of Indigenous nationhood, self-determination, and treaty rights. This exhibition – our land, together – brings together the work of three Indigenous artists who share their own understandings of the embedded personal and communal relationships Indigenous people hold with the land as home, as territory, and as the source of law and philosophy.
– Suzanne Morrissette
Suzanne Morrissette is an artist, curator, writer, and emerging scholar from Winnipeg, who is based in Toronto. She received her BFA in 2009 from Emily Carr University of Art & Design and an MFA with a focus on Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University in 2011. Morrissette is currently pursuing a PhD at York University in the Department of Social and Political Thought, where her research explores the shifting histories and concepts of land as territory on Turtle Island through a discussion of artworks by contemporary Indigenous artists.
My most recent work has been centered on cultural crisis/conflict and its political and cultural manifestations, located and contextualized around issues of Indigeniety from a global perspective. More broadly, it seeks to address the development of a deeper personal cosmology originating in the ideas of reclamation and sovereignty; the effects of relationships and familial/communal ties; non-conventional ways of knowing (ie. dreaming, intuition, blood memory, collective subconscious); underlying tensions and complexity inherent in searching for truth and how these impacts radiate out into wider communities. Building on my world-views and borrowing strongly from my past (non-artistic) works, active seeking and fostering of collaborative artistic projects continues to be a deeply meaningful and fruitful avenue of investigation and creation.
– Scott Benesiinaabandan
Scott Benesiinaabandan is an Anishinabe intermedia artist who works primarily in photography, video, audio and printmaking. He has completed a number of international residencies including Parramatta Artist Studios (Australia, 2012), Context Gallery (Derry, Northern Ireland, 2010) and the University Lethbridge/Royal Institute of Technology iAIR residency (2013). Benesiinaabandan is currently based in Montreal, where he completed a year-long Canada Council New Media Production grant through OBx Labs/Ab-TeC and Concordia. In the past four years, he has been awarded multiple grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Winnipeg Arts Council.
This series of prints is the result of lectures by respected elder and academic LeRoy Littlebear at the Banff Centre in 2010 and 2014. Something LeRoy said stuck in my head: “The trees, water, air and rocks are alive. They remember everything.” This has given me a lot to think about. Four and a half billion years of happenings is a lot of knowledge to remember. Turtle Island has been around for quite some time. His words made me think about how nothing is lost. These four prints connect the images of trees, water, air and rocks with a text that is loaded with traditional Anishnabe precepts. For example, I paired the image of water with gaawiin wiikaa anisha ji-bakobiwebinaj asiniing kii-pi-mi-ji-wung kishpin dodama-n ka maa-shi-kii-shi-gun, translated to, “Never throw rocks into flowing water for nothing; a bad storm will happen if you do.”
– Christian Chapman
Christian Chapman is of Anishnabe heritage from Fort William First Nation, Ontario. He creates two-dimensional mixed-media artwork that fuses elements of painting, drawing and printmaking. Chapman uses storytelling as a main theme in his art practice. The act of storytelling has been an important part of his life. It has informed him of his culture by shaping his identity and personal experiences. Painting is Chapman’s way of paying respect to the past by way of telling a story. Stories of heritage, identity and personal experience are explored in his art.
The artist acknowledges the support of the Ontario Arts Council and The Banff Centre. Special thanks to Wendy and Andrea from the Velvet Antler Print Studio.
I’ve lived in this place now known as Toronto off and on since the early 1980s. Though it is not ‘my’ original land or territory, I keep coming back here to wander, make art and music, meet colleagues and make friends. The song kitaskîhkanaw composed by my long-time collaborator, Joseph Naytowhow, and myself is the starting point for this work, a continuation of my practice of ‘singing land’ and making media artwork to document that process. Here, the singer is looking out into the four directions and inferring (though not a literal translation of the lyrics) “…for as far as my eye can see in this direction…this is our mother earth,” thereby making a relationship to the land around. I chose places where, over the years, I have had significant experiences. I want the viewer to be a dynamic part of the changing landscape, as we know we are in this age of climate change. The work asks: Are we truly who or what is at the centre of the land looking outwards or is there a greater force now observing us?
– Cheryl L’Hirondelle
Cheryl L’Hirondelle is an Alberta-born, mixed-blood (Cree-Métis/German-Polish), community-engaged, interdisciplinary artist, singer/songwriter and media art curator. Since the early 1980s, she has created, performed and presented work in a variety of artistic disciplines, including: music, performance art, storytelling, installation and media art. Her creative practice investigates a Cree worldview (nêhiyawin) in contemporary time-space. L’Hirondelle was one of the first Indigenous artists from this land now known as Canada to be invited to present her work at DAK’ART Lab, part of the Dakar Biennale for Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal (2004). She was also awarded Best New Media at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Art Festival (2005 & 2006).
Archer Pechawis: Technical Director / Production Manager
Kyle Duffield: Lead Programmer: (MAX MSP & Jitter) / Interaction Designer
Samay Arcentales: Videographer
Joseph Naytowhow: Cree Language Consultant
The artist acknowledges the support of the Visual Arts Mentorship Program in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, and Centre for Indigenous Media Art at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus.
Support also provided by the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council, with funding provided by the City of Toronto.