What is the role of Indigenous women in Canadian art history? That’s the issue under discussion at UVic’s latest Distinguished Women Scholar Lecture.

Presented by the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, the 2017 Distinguished Women Scholar Lecture features professor, artist and curator Dr. Sherry Farrell Racette. Her free public lecture — “I Want to Call Their Names in Resistance”: Claiming Space for Indigenous Women in Canadian Art History — runs from 5 to 6pm Wednesday, Feb 22 at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, 630 Yates Street

Dr Sherry Farrell Racette

One of only five Indigenous women art historians to hold an academic appointment in Canada, Dr. Farrell Racette is an interdisciplinary scholar with an active arts practice — including beadwork, painting and multi-media textile works. She has also illustrated children’s books by noted authors Maria Campbell, Freda Ahnenakew and Ruby Slipperjack and currently teaches at the University of Manitoba in the departments of Native Studies and Women and Gender Studies.

An exceptional scholar who has mentored many women academics—including other Indigenous women academics—in the fall of 2017, Dr. Farrell Racette will also become the first recipient of the Distinguished Indigenous Scholar at the Jackman Humanities Institute, in conjunction with the University of Toronto’s Massey College where she is currently a Visiting Resident Scholar.

Her research interests are diverse indeed — including, but not limited to, First Nations and Metis women’s history, art history and educational history; Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy; contemporary First Nations art, photography and museum collections; First Nations and Metis traditional arts; and issues of representation and self-representation. “I love drifting through the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives — or any archive for that matter — and opening random drawers in museum collections,” she explains. “Stories are my principal focus, stories of people, stories that objects tell, painting stories, telling stories and finding stories.”

While at UVic, Dr. Farrell Racette will visit undergraduate students in a number of classes, including the Art History & Visual Studies course “Contemporary Indigenous Art” to be held at First Peoples House, as well as Creative Being, the signature Fine Arts 101 class, where she will hold a beading and storytelling circle with students.

Farrell Racette’s 1990 painting “Ancestral Women Taking Back Their Dresses”

While Indigenous art and art history is gaining currency, Indigenous women artists and scholars remain under-­recognized in comparison to their male counterparts. As such, her keynote address is nicely timed to coincide with the exhibit Ellen Neel: The First Woman Totem Pole Carver, currently on view at the Legacy Gallery. Not only does this exhibition celebrate the career of Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) carver Ellen Neel (1916-1966), the first woman carver of monumental totem poles, but it also acknowledges her contribution towards the recognition of what she called “Indian Art” and the role of women Indigenous artists.

Farrell Racette’s recent academic publications include Returning Fire, Pointing the Canon: Aboriginal Photography as Resistance, In The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada (McGill-Queens University Press, 2011), “Nimble Fingers, Strong Backs: First Nations and Metis Women in Fur Trade and Rural Economies,” in Indigenous Women and Work: Transnational Perspectives (University of Illinois Press, 2011), and “‘I Want to Call Their Names in Resistance’: Writing Aboriginal Women into Canadian Art History,” in Rethinking Professionalism: Essays on Women and Art in Canada, 1850-1970 (McGill-Queens University Press, 2011).

Recent curatorial and artistic projects include Resistance/ Resilience: Métis Art, 1860-2011 (Batoche Heritage Centre, 2011), We Are Not Birds (Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 2014) and From Here: Story Gatherings from the Qu’Appelle Valley (2015), a public installation of paintings based on memories of Métis elders.

The Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture series was established by the Vice-President Academic and Provost to bring distinguished women scholars to the University of Victoria.