The voices of Indigenous peoples in contemporary culture are still stifled, as the traditions have historically been stripped away since the beginning of colonialization. Art has been used by Aboriginal people in order to heal from this assimilation, and to allow for a political assertion. However, it has primarily been male artists that have been credited with these important artistic ventures.
Societal awareness of the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada has recently increased. To me, this means the celebration of Indigenous women artists is not only key to reconciliation in Canada, but is crucial to eliminating violence through the celebration of Indigenous womanhood.
The West Coast Women Artists (WCWA) collective presents In the Heart of Women, an innovative exhibit at the Roundhouse which has provided a new opportunity for Indigenous women in Vancouver to have their voices heard. The work on display will be a mix of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art styles, including (but not even remotely limited to) bead work, painting, clothing, photography, film and music.
“Any medium you can think of – we got it covered”, says collective member Doris Fox.
The group formed in 2013 at a local studio for female artists. The artists range in experience from veteran to emerging, and the group is about much more than just producing art work. Together they support one another creatively and emotionally, build their skills through providing and taking workshops, and share traditional teachings through art.
This exhibit will be their first, and became a reality a year ago, after the women successfully applied for the First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s Aboriginal Arts Development Award for artist collectives in BC.
WCWA have partnered with the Roundhouse to display their exhibit in the Exhibition Hall. In exchange, the women will be providing two community workshops to four elementary classes from Vancouver’s east side. The children will travel to the Roundhouse to see the exhibit, and will be taught traditional cedar weaving.
The collective has also had a short documentary created about them, by filmmaker Yunuen Perez Vertti. In it, the women talk about the challenges of being Indigenous women in a western world: the isolation, the systemic and emotional barriers, the violence, and the difficulty of finding time to create art.
There are eleven women exhibiting work: Arlene Bowman (Dine Nation – Video and Still Photography), Chrissie Oleman (Nisga’a and St’at’imc Nation – Featherwork and Beadwork), Doris Fox (Musqueam Nation – Textiles), Georgina Wing-Klem (Tsimshian Nation – Button Blankets), Haisla Collins (Tsimshian and Nisga’a Nation – Mixed Media), Jaccqueline West (Squamish Nation – Dreamcatchers), Jacqueline Quewezance (Keeseekoose Nation – Acrylic Paintings), Kelly Roulette (Ojibiwe – Mixed Media), Lori Fox, (Musqueam Nation – Illustrations), Rose-marie Francis (Da’naxda’xw Nation – Beadwork), and Veronica Iza (Mixed Media).
The show is curated by Naza del Rosal.
In the Heart of Women runs February 2-11, 2015 at the Roundhouse’s Exhibition Hall. Admission is free.
There will be a reception with the artists on February 7 from 1pm-3pm, which will include a fashion show, traditionally inspired cuisine by Aboriginal chef Theresa Contois of Cedar Feast House, and the unveiling of a special tribute piece created collaboratively by WCWA, Honouring Indigenous Women.
By Odette Wilson, Roundhouse blogger. Odette is an aspiring communications professional with experience in blogging, social media, and public relations. She is Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw, and is interested in supporting Indigenous artists through community development and engagement. She is passionate about health, including fitness, nutrition and traditional healing, and enjoys combining the arts with wellness to truly nurture her soul. Twitter: @odettemwilson