Ano­ther Way To Ce­le­brate 150 Years

Magazin'Art - - Editorial -

As the na­tio­nal pu­blic re­la­tions ma­chi­ne­ry gears up to ce­le­brate Ca­na­da's 150th an­ni­ver­sa­ry there are any num­ber of ways for the Ca­na­dian art lo­ver to ce­le­brate the na­tion's an­ni­ver­sa­ry.

There are par­ties and pa­rades of course, but here at Magazin'art we would like you to go out and buy some real­ly good Ca­na­dian art, much of which is ga­the­ring an in­ter­na­tio­nal fol­lo­wing. Buy pieces of art that you tru­ly like and want to live with. Pur­chase pieces that speak to you.

That being said there are some First Na­tions' ar­tists who are star­ting to make the ob­vious ob­jec­tions to a cons­tant pa­rade of un­fet­te­red self-congra­tu­la­tion.

As a place Ca­na­da has exis­ted for a lot lon­ger than 150 years. To on­ly ce­le­brate the last 150 years is the­re­fore ex­clu­ding those peoples who have tra­di­tio­nal­ly li­ved here.

To their cre­dit the ci­ties of Van­cou­ver and Vic­to­ria are ta­king a dif­ferent stance. Van­cou­ver has cal­led their ce­le­bra­tions Ca­na­da 150+ and will be ce­le­bra­ting First Na­tions' art, mu­sic and culture. Vic­to­ria has na­med its ses­qui­cen­ten­nial ce­le­bra­tions, A Year of Re­con­ci­lia­tion, and said that it will be fo­cu­sing on re­con­ci­lia­tion with the Son­ghees and Es­qui­mault First Na­tions.

By now you must be thin­king what does this have to do with art? The ans­wer to that is it has a lot to do with abo­ri­gi­nal ar­tists, ma­ny of whom are dead set against ce­le­bra­ting what can jus­ti­fia­bly be cal­led a co­lo­nial po­wer that conti­nual­ly ignores the pro­blems and the cultu­ral ge­no­cide that it has crea­ted.

Kent Monk­man, a well known ar­tist of Cree des­cent who has had shows at the Na­tio­nal Gal­le­ry, Mon­treal Mu­seum of Fine Arts and the Glen­bow is sub­ver­ting Ca­na­da's ses­qui­cen­ten­nial through his new show, Shame and Pre­ju­dice: The Sto­ry of Re­si­lience, which is pre­mie­ring at the Uni­ver­si­ty of To­ron­to Art Mu­seum through to March 4th and then tou­ring the coun­try, ope­ning at the Glen­bow in Cal­ga­ry in ear­ly June.

Monk­man has a long his­to­ry of pro­du­cing sub­ver­sive art. He likes to take a pic­ture from the past and then re­do it from a re­vi­sio­nist point of view. The best examples of this tack may be The Death of a Vir­gin (Af­ter Ca­ra­vag­gio) or his The Dad­dies, mo­de­led af­ter Ro­bert Har­ris' The Fa­thers of Con­fe­de­ra­tion.

In The Death of a Vir­gin, Monk­man shows a fa­mi­ly grie­ving over a dead wo­man lying in a hos­pi­tal bed, pre­su­ma­bly by sui­cide. In The Dad­dies, Monk­man's al­ter ego Miss Chief Eagle Tes­ti­ckle lies na­ked be­fore The Fa­thers of Con­fe­de­ra­tion. Miss Chief Tes­ti­ckle serves as a cons­tant wit­ness to the co­lo­nia­li­za­tion of her people.

Spea­king of Miss Chief Eagle Tes­ti­ckle Monk­man has des­cri­bed her as a ve­ry fe­male spi­rit that coun­ters the ve­ry male, pa­triar­chal Eu­ro­pean co­lo­ni­zed view­point.

In The Scream, Monk­man takes on­ly the title from Ed­vard Munch. The pic­ture shows nuns, priests and red serge uni­for­med Moun­ties tea­ring chil­dren from the arms of their fa­mi­lies. The ex­hi­bi­tion is in nine chap­ters and runs through time from the ar­ri­val of the French to the present. The ex­hi­bi­tion will be tra­vel­ling across Ca­na­da un­til 2020.

By this point you may be as­king your­self what does all this mean to me and one con­crete way to ans­wer that may lie in the hoo­die worn by a First Na­tions girl in Win­ni­peg se­ve­ral years ago. It said, “Got land? Thank an Indian.”

One way to thank the First Na­tions is to start by ma­king sure that when you buy so­me­thing which can range from muk­luks to par­kas to West Coast First Na­tions car­vings and art to Inuit sculp­ture and gra­phics, that it is tru­ly in­di­ge­nous.

That may be ea­sier to do in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia than it is in the rest of Ca­na­da. In BC, the Au­then­tic In­di­ge­nous Arts Re­sur­gence Cam­pai­gn has been for­med to pro­vide buyers with an au­then­tic pro­ve­nance.

ARC pro­vides a three tier cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­cess that runs from being en­ti­re­ly crea­ted and sold by First Na­tions mem­bers to de­si­gns that have been ap­pro­ved and are used un­der li­cence.

One of the ma­jor com­plaints about cultu­ral ap­pro­pria­tion is that the sym­bo­lism in abo­ri­gi­nal de­si­gns is of­ten mi­su­sed when they are ap­pro­pria­ted crea­ting a de­ba­sed and re­pu­gnant ver­sion for those who know what the ori­gi­nal should mean. You could say that in most cases it adds in­sult to in­ju­ry when you throw in the lost po­ten­tial re­ve­nue.

In the rest of Ca­na­da your best bet to make sure you are pur­cha­sing au­then­tic in­di­ge­nous art­work is to buy it from re­pu­table dea­lers and to stay away from the gift shops and tou­rist cen­ters.

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