A new art exhibition is hitting the road and showcasing works from 50 contemporary Indigenous women artists across Canada.
But instead of housing the pieces in a gallery space, the artwork will be displayed on approximately 170 billboards from coast to coast this summer.
Resilience features artwork from some of the country’s most recognized female artists including Christi Belcourt, KC Adams and Annie Pootoogook.
“It’s a celebration and affirmation of the vitality, complexity and diversity of Indigenous women’s art,” curator Lee-Ann Martin told APTN News at the launch for the exhibit.
The project was started as a response to one of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. According to the exhibit’s website, Resilience answers the call to support, “collaborations among Aboriginal peoples and the arts community to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration.”
Martin says she chose pieces which illustrated the complex relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.
“It was important to me that the exhibition have a balance between celebrating our Indigenous culture, the history and contemporary realities,” said Martin. “[While] critiquing the history, the colonial history and also the ongoing devastation in the communities by the government and corporate interests.”
One of those pieces is from Cree and Ojibway artist KC Adam’s Perceptions series, which was originally displayed in Winnipeg four years ago. In it Adams tackles stereotypes and racism by letting subjects label themselves.
“I feel like we’re going through a renaissance period of creativity with our expressions, our storytelling [and] sharing our voices,” said Adams.
“It goes beyond victimhood.”
In the past women have been viewed only as victims, but Resilience is changing that, adds Adams.
“The great thing about women in the community is that it seems like we’re the ones leading the way,” she said.
“Having these billboards accessible to not just to our community, but the entire Canadian community is absolutely incredible because they are going to see our perspective.”
A drawing of a “Warrior Woman,” a photograph of water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and a painting depicting “Mother Earth” are some of the pieces included in the exhibition.
“The last thing in the world that we all wanted to see was the notion of victimization for the women,” said Martin. “It was like no we are strong, we’ve endured, we are adaptable and we are resilient going into the future.”
The project is produced by Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA), a small Winnipeg-based art centre.
The artwork will be placed on billboards along roads in major cities and reserves, including the 700 km Highway of Tears in British Columbia.
“We kind of pieced it together so that the works would be seen by as many people as possible, the works would also be seen by as many Indigenous people as possible and the works would be placed in such a way it would be resonate with the home communities of the artist,” said Shawna Dempsey, co-director of MAWA.
For billboard locations across Canada visit https://resilienceproject.ca/en/