Mapping Identities: A Decolonizing Arts Practice Project
In Mapping Identity: A Decolonizing Arts Practices Project, we share the process and art works created during a youth art workshop designed and led by Colombian Mestiza interdisciplinary artist Praba Pilar. Developed with Becca Taylor of Urban Shaman Aboriginal Arts Gallery and supported by Ndinawe Youth Resource Center in the North End of Winnipeg, we wanted to provide a space for urban Aboriginal youth to reflect on who and where they are so as to imagine more creatively where they can go, to rupture stereotypical ideas, and to lend the youth the opportunity to be understood on their own terms. We explored artistic concepts of mapping of identity, working through mind maps, land maps, conceptual maps, collage and digital media to construct maps of their histories, their current lives, their family and friends, their community and their migration. Ultimately, we want to build knowledge of community constructed strategies to develop agency, resilience and strength in urban Aboriginal youth by creating artwork that opens up a richer expression and a fuller understanding.
Mentoring Artist Praba Pilar with Art works from the youth of Ndinawe Transitional School.
Urban Shaman Aboriginal Art Gallery. Winnipeg, MB.
Mapping Identities | Installation shot
Photo by Karen Asher
A light left on
Transformation is a part of Indigenous culture, with each generation defining what Indigeneity means through the reworking of material practices and processes. A light left on explores relationships to contemporary art making by Indigenous artists through a collection of works from the permanent collection of Walter Phillips Gallery. The exhibition takes up the question of how materials and objects can, through time, personal experience, and traditional knowledge, “respect the mundane and assert the significance of the everyday,” as Helga Pakasaar wrote in the Banff Centre produced publication Re-visions. This collection of texts on materiality, objecthood and Indigeneity dates from 1992, within a few years of when the selected works were acquired into the collection.
The artists included in the exhibition represent a strong cohort of contemporary practice, illuminating an inter-generational employment of shared mediums and techniques. Highlighting the fluid use of old and new technologies and materials, the works in A light left on include objects of important significance to the artists and their communities. Materials sourced from the land, such as wood, sweet grass and leather, refer to traditional processes of making and being. The artists also employ analogue and digital photography, including cyanotypes, assemblage prints and collage-processes that highlight various approaches to contemporary practice and technology.
By layering differing material methods alongside one another, the artworks in the exhibition arguably also explore non-linear concepts of time. Through this layering, the very act of making becomes political, as it stresses the importance of retaining traditional methods and materials in contemporary contexts. Further, the exhibition asks how Indigenous artworks might alter, inform, or reroute western understandings of time through this very act of making, helping us to think collectively about present and future practices. In A light lefton, traditional knowledge is brightly lit, illuminating current explorations of Indigeneity in an ever evolving contemporary landscape.
 Helga Pakasaar, “Introduction,” in Re-visions, (Banff: Banff Centre for The Arts,1992), 1 - 6.
Works by: Rebecca Baird, Maryanne Barkhouse, Rebecca Belmore, Patricia Deadman, Shelley Niro, Edward Poitras, Greg Staats and Jeannie Ziska
Walter Phillips Gallery, Satellite Space, Eric Harvie West Lobby and Glyde Hall
A light left on | installation image
Photo by Katy Whitt | Photo services Practicum at the Banff Centre
Urban space – what is removed and what is built within an urban landscape – erases Indigenous presence. While this exhibition recognizes the strategic colonial systems of displacement in urban contexts, it also aims to acknowledge the ways in which Indigenous communities continue to exist and resist. Streets and buildings are marked by ambiguous ephemera from our actions and active existence; traces of our histories, knowledges, homes and activism are present, and leave imprints on the urban landscape. We continue to create an ongoing narrative about our bodies’ connection to the land, regardless of the concrete structures that make up cityscapes. This exhibition also aims to acknowledge the Indigenous body as a site and a method of expression, examining the physical presence of Indigenous peoples within urban spaces that are built and occupied by settler communities.
Traces includes series of performances and installations examining how our physical presence holds within urban structures, and explores the longstanding connections our bodies have to our ancestors, the land and our communities. This exhibition commits our bodies to an ideology through our physical actions and shifts the presence of contemporary art away from the urban architectural structures and towards the body.
Artists: Jaime Black, Dion Kaszas, Tanya Lukin Linklater