Kanata: A Na­tive Per­spec­tive

Shed­ding light on the unique and of­ten dif­fi­cult north­ern Cana­dian In­dige­nous ex­pe­ri­ence

Our Canada - - Contents - by Jim Lo­gan, Ot­tawa

Artist Jim Lo­gan’s strik­ing paint­ings fo­cus on the dis­tinct and at times dis­turb­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of grow­ing up in one of Canada’s north­ern In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Alarge por­tion of my 30-year ca­reer as an artist has been de­voted to re­veal­ing the truth be­hind In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties. I ad­mit to chang­ing my style a lit­tle over the years, but I like to de­fine my work as a con­tin­ued study of the north­ern Cana­dian In­dige­nous ex­pe­ri­ence. It is my way of po­litely and re­spect­fully com­mu­ni­cat­ing the harsh re­al­i­ties of poverty, liv­ing within a hege­monic so­ci­ety, and re­think­ing what “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” is and if one can re­ally ever achieve such.

As it stands, I don’t think the word “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” was meant for us. It was di­rected, more so, to the dom­i­nant cul­ture, so that non-in­dige­nous Cana­di­ans could be­come aware of the in­jus­tices our peo­ple en­dure ev­ery­day. I am not con­vinced that Canada can ac­tu­ally rec­on­cile, nor do I be­lieve we can for­get and feel whole in our cur­rent re­la­tion­ship with Canada.

It is not quaint and peace­ful in a typ­i­cal north­ern In­dige­nous com­mu­nity; it is quite the op­po­site. There is vi­o­lence, drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion, gas and sol­vent abuse, and a lot of fright­en­ing sex­ual and phys­i­cal harm. I have painted about these nega­tive re­al­i­ties a lot dur­ing my ca­reer. Be­ing 63 years old, I seem to have grown tired of it all. I even find my­self try­ing to for­get about it. Is­sues of health, poverty, hous­ing, gangs and crime have taken over many north­ern Indig- enous com­mu­ni­ties, while our old cul­tural val­ues of hope, hon­esty hard work, respect and hon­our strug­gle to remain. Hav­ing lived through these dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ments has made paint­ing them that much more of a chal­lenge. There have been times where I’ve taken breaks and worked in other styles, but re­gard­less of how phys­i­cally

and emo­tion­ally drain­ing it is, my heart tells me to con­tinue.

Through­out my most re­cent “Vil­lage” works, I have in­ten­tion­ally left sub­tle hints de­pict­ing the harsh liv­ing con­di­tions in cer­tain Indig- enous com­mu­ni­ties I’ve lived in or oth­er­wise be­came fa­mil­iar with be­tween 1960 and 1990. In my “Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” se­ries, I delve deeper into my past ex­pe­ri­ences as a child, how I pushed through them and how I was reawak­ened dur­ing my time in the Yukon.

I imag­ine it be­ing very dif­fi­cult for nonIndige­nous Cana­di­ans to re­ally grasp what rec­on­cil­i­a­tion means for us. I have al­ways done my best to com­mu­ni­cate the com­plex­ity of our com­mu­ni­ties through my art—but un­less you have truly im­mersed your­self within In­dige­nous groups, it’ll be dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand. There is so much pes­simism sur­round­ing Canada’s In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, and it mostly em­anates from peo­ple who do not know the his­tory and do not un­der­stand the spir­i­tu­al­ism of place or the need for re­sis­tance.

In­dige­nous peo­ple

must re­sist in or­der to remain cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant. As­sim­i­la­tion is not the an­swer. Many of our peo­ple feel we live un­der “oc­cu­pa­tion,” sim­i­lar in some ways to what hap­pened to the peo­ple of Ger­manoc­cu­pied Europe dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. One big dif­fer­ence is that we’ve been liv­ing un­der a form of oc­cu­pa­tion for much longer than that. It has been go­ing on since 1876, when the In­dian Act stripped us of our freedom.

As an artist, my in­ten­tions are never to fo­cus solely on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters. I sim­ply want to record the pathos of liv­ing un­der the hege­monic con­di­tion we find our­selves in to­day. Dur­ing my life­time, I have been im­pov­er­ished, I’ve felt lost, and I have ex­pe­ri­enced abuse. How­ever, I al­ways en­joy look­ing at the glass as half full, rather than half empty. There is beauty in ev­ery­thing—you just have to find it. Per­haps that is why I some­times paint in bright colours and, other times, in black and white. Some­times an artist does not fully un­der­stand or can­not ex­plain the rea­sons be­hind the works he or she cre­ates; it’s up to the viewer to in­ter­pret what is de­picted and then come up with an an­swer on their own. n

Above: Ac­cord­ing to Jim, kids were warned to hide from big black cars, as they were usu­ally gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cles, not to be trusted. Left: this haunt­ing im­age painted by Jim proved to be ther­a­peu­tic, as it helped him cope with dis­turb­ing child­hood in­ci­dents.

“As­sailant” is an­other of Jim’s paint­ings that ad­dresses child abuse.

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