Canadian Art - - Reviews -

Rematriate con­nects In­dige­nous women through­out the world, smash­ing stereo­types as they em­brace and cel­e­brate their cul­tures, com­mu­ni­ties and ed­u­ca­tion. Founded in 2015 by a core group in Bri­tish Columbia and the Yukon, the col­lec­tive uses so­cial me­dia to claim space for In­dige­nous women to show­case who they are, in their own words. Some­times par­tic­i­pants—all In­dige­nous self­i­den­ti­fy­ing women—nom­i­nate them­selves, and some­times com­mu­nity mem­bers nom­i­nate them, work­ing with them to choose be­tween one and three images that de­fine their em­pow­ered iden­ti­ties. Each con­trib­u­tor cre­ates a short bi­og­ra­phy de­tail­ing per­sonal and com­mu­nity his­to­ries that both high­light their in­di­vid­ual suc­cesses and re­claim their col­lec­tive nar­ra­tives. The images and texts are posted on­line via Face­book, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter.

“We came to­gether out of a ne­ces­sity to open up con­ver­sa­tions around hav­ing sovereignty over our images. We live in a so­ci­ety of images and they carry a lot of weight and power,” re­flects Jeneen Frei Njootli (Vun­tut Gwitchin), a found­ing mem­ber of Rematriate. “I think it was nec­es­sary for In­dige­nous women to share their own images and sto­ries, un­der their terms,” agrees Rematriate core mem­ber Den­ver Lynx­leg (Anishi­naabe). “I hope the images could pre­pare young women to see them­selves as ma­tri­archs in the mak­ing,” she says.

Over the past two years, Rematriate has ex­panded into a com­mu­nity of its own, unit­ing women through art and shared sto­ries that co-opt the vi­ral power of in­for­ma­tion net­works and im­age-shar­ing. The col­lec­tive’s work has also spread to in­sti­tu­tional space. In Novem­ber 2016, artists Sage Paul and Erika A. Iser­hoff of the Set­suné In­dige­nous Fash­ion In­cu­ba­tor took over the In­sta­gram feed of Van­cou­ver artist-run cen­tre West­ern Front for a month-long res­i­dency in sup­port of Rematriate, post­ing images of hide-tan­ning and indigo-dye­ing work­shops, Hau­denosaunee doll-mak­ing and sa­cred-fire build­ing (“even tho it is con­sid­ered a man’s role, women must also learn how to do this cause some­times there might not be any men around when you need a fire for a sweat!”) to break down the bar­ri­ers be­tween tra­di­tional knowl­edge and con­tem­po­rary In­dige­nous iden­ti­ties.

The women of Rematriate fo­cus on their sto­ries and the roles they play in their com­mu­ni­ties to re­claim power through, as Frei Njootli notes, “be­ing able to self-au­tho­rize and have sovereignty over how we are per­ceived be­cause for so long that gaze has been one-way.” Rematriate of­fers a safe space for In­dige­nous women to show the world who they are—com­pli­cated, com­plex, pow­er­ful, cre­ative be­ings. —TENILLE CAMP­BELL

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