Featured Imagine Illustration by Nitya Chirravur
Art is powerful. Art is trans-formative. Art is in us. As Sara said this week, “I can’t imagine a world without art”. Me either. I loved in the “Verbing Art” article by Monique Mojica it says, “My mother recently told me that I was born an artist and that was how she knew she had to nurture and support what she recognized in me.” (p. 15). Imagine if we all had this unwavering support to be who we are. I think the world would be a lot more peaceful. It comes back to the question, “what if Indigenous Art wasn’t affected by colonization?”. I think art would be more peaceful – not passive, but peaceful and joyful and for themselves. You wouldn’t have to create art as a defense, because you wouldn’t have anything to defend – it could just be.
Art is being used for healing. Mojica says, “living as an artist has required me to be fearless in search of cultural recovery and to reclaim those missing pieces.” (p. 16). “As an Indigenous artist, I feel it is my responsibility to do so.” We can find those pieces of ourselves and try to heal. We can embody our art.
“As Ngugi (1998) explains, [decolonial] art arms silence with voices that, even when the bodies that carry them are crushed and ground to powder, will rise again, and multiply, and sing out their presence…art in this sense is silence that screams.” (p.28). This analogy makes me picture a phoenix rising from the ashes. When I was searching online, I came across this beautiful painting by Sioux artist Maxine Noel from Manitoba. Beauty and strength can be formed from nothing and I loved how the painting showed someone transforming into the phoenix, looking strong and confident. When we were having the conservation in class, and the question is was posed, why do you make art? What does it mean to you? Well, I think this quote really speaks to why many Indigenous people make art – to have their voices heard. Jaq and I were saying that Indigenous artists have the ability to say things in their art that Indigenous activists would have a harder time saying. Art screams in silence…but it can say SO much in that silence.
There were many inspiring pieces that Hannah Claus presented at the “trade – treaty – territory” exhibit at the Dunlop. Once I had some time, to think about it, what I took away most from the exhibit was the idea of duality. Mojica says, “What has not changed are the power dynamics and our ability to have control over our image, our cultures and our history when we are performing within mainstream institution.” (p. 23). There is a sense of duality here as well – the want to tell your own stories while battling with settlers who either miss-tell them, or use power that isn’t there’s, to speak them louder. First, the Wampum belts – what a beautiful idea. This was duality in such a powerful, positive way. Two people coming together and creating together to show commitment to the promise they are both making. Whether you are agreeing just to inhabit the same space and nothing more, you are coming together as one. Next was the cups and cedar leaves. This was the most direct representation of duality to me – Hannah was represented the duality within herself. She is English and Indigenous, both being shown at this exhibit. I loved how she chose to to melt the wax, I read that as her two sides melting into one although still standing on their own. Duality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just highlights two or more sides of ourselves. The blankets titled “Invaders” shows the painful, dark duality that Indigenous people face in Canada. Indigenous people viewed trade as ceremony, something beautiful and sacred, and settlers took it as an opportunity to sabotage Indigenous people. Blankets were given to Indigenous people covered in the Small Pox virus and it wiped up communities. Indigenous people went into trade with a pure heart, ready to “polish the silver and keep it untarnished” and this was how they were re-payed. Settlers were, and are still not putting in the time and care to keep our relationships shiny.
Finally, I saw duality in the map series “the route that ocicahk preferred” (2017). This piece was literally the overlaying of dual views. One of the settler, and Hannah choosing to portray ocicahk’s over top of it. I think we often feel this push and pull of direction and truth. “To destabilize the pervasive mythology of colonialism (and its aesthetic) is to re-constitute and re-narrate spaces beyond and elsewhere.” (Martineau, Ritskes, p. 111).
My favourite idea of Hannah’s was bringing rebirth to lost art by using the pictures of the beaded skirts and dresses to create the hanging piece. This is a powerful way to pay homage to those that came before us in a modern way. If we can’t have the original pieces on display (keep fighting that fight) then this is an option to let lost voices be heard. “Art is a defense and an action.” (Mojica, p. 27). The “I Art” poem at the end of the “Verbing Art” article was profound. There are so many reasons we art and there is no right or wrong way to do it – we were asked at the end of our class facilitation to write our own “I Art” poetry and I have included mine. I art for lots of reasons and I am so grateful to have the opportunity. So many people do not have the avenue to have their voices heard and I recognize my privilege.
Thanks for reading,
“Educating the mind without educating the heart,
is no education at all.” – Aristotle