It’s a mix of superhero comic book figures drawn from an Indigenous lens that packs a big punch.
The art exhibit – When Raven Becomes Spider at the University of Winnipeg features six Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island.
Contemporary Cree artist Joi Arcand found it problematic that historical images of Indigenous women were often romanticized, women dressed in buckskin dresses sitting by waterfalls is one example – so she changed the images.
“I hope that they see themselves, if they are Indigenous youth, that they are represented in superhero culture and pop culture,” says Arcand.
Originally from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Arcand was making memes before the advent of social media, using the technology available at the time; photoshop editing software, showcasing Indigenous women the way they felt – not as the settler society displayed them.
“People are excited about superheroes, excited about comics, so whenever there are new voices in that medium it’s really exciting,” Arcand says.
The trend of artists changing and challenging the narrative of only white superheroes is growing from a handful of artists to a full comic convention of Indigenous artists and fans at the New York Comic Convention.
More artists are including Indigenous superheroes in their comics so Indigenous people can see themselves reflected in the landscape, says Sonya Ballantyne, an award-winning filmmaker from Misipawistik Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.
“I would love to see more native heroes, more native villains, too, and just more people creating” says Ballantyne, who entered the field so she could see people like her mom as the captain of a Star Trek space ship.
Ballantyne says she’s inspired by the up-and-coming artists and filmmakers on the scene she sees making a difference.
Curator Leena Minifie is a Gitxaala living in Vancouver who believes creativity and profound truth are needed for communication and strives for out-of-the-box projects.
She says it’s important for Indigenous artists to change the narrative in pop culture.