Transformational reconciliation through exhibitions

Dr Heather Igloliorte at UVic, November 2023 (UVic Photo Services)

If it wasn’t for a hurricane, the life of globally renowned Inuk and Nunatsiavut art historian and curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte would have taken an entirely different turn.

Back in 2003, she had just graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (major: fine art, minor: art history) and intended to pursue an MFA with the intention of becoming a practicing artist.

Then came the plot twist: Hurricane Juan blew in from the Atlantic and blew out Halifax’s power grid — including the traffic lights — resulting in a car accident that left Igloliorte seriously injured and requiring a year of painful physiotherapy. “I had muscle damage from my neck to my shin . . . but particularly in my shoulder and arm, so I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to paint again,” she recalls.

Thanks to that BFA minor, however, Igloliorte was able to switch her focus to art history while she was in recovery. That’s when she first began exploring the history of Inuit art, which soon inspired her to pursue a master’s degree.

“I learned for the first time how much of Canadian Inuit art history had been written by non-Inuit,” she says. “Although there were thousands of exhibitions and articles and catalogues and books about Inuit art, almost none of it had been written by Inuit . . .. I came to realize that there was so much work to be done and felt I needed to contribute to that.”

A well-deserved global reputation

Igloliorte was announced on Nov. 16 as UVic’s inaugural Canada Research Excellence Chair in Decolonial and Transformational Indigenous Art Practices — an $8-million research chair funded through the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program and administered by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council on behalf of Canada’s federal granting agencies.

Read the UVic news release.

Canada’s first Inuk art historian to hold a doctoral degree, Igloliorte has developed a well-deserved reputation as an internationally renowned curator whose work has positioned circumpolar Indigenous arts and knowledge at the centre of global exhibition practices.

Her many accomplishments as an independent curator and scholar include holding the Tier 1 University Research Chair in Circumpolar Indigenous Arts at Concordia University; co-directing the Indigenous Futures Research Centre; directing the nation-wide Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: Pilimmaksarniq / Pijariuqsarniq Project; co-curating a ground-breaking survey of contemporary Inuit art as the inaugural exhibition of the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq Inuit art centre; and co-curating a program of northern Canadian Indigenous-made 360° films, ARCTIC XR, in conjunction with the Sami Pavilion during the 2023 edition of the Venice Biennale.

Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren with Heather Igloliorte at the official announcement on Nov 16 (photo: Megan Dickie)

Exhibitions that change lives

By focusing on decolonizing institutions and foregrounding Indigenous knowledge, perspectives and creativity — while challenging colonialist understandings of resilience, health, resources and technologies — Igloliorte has created or co-created more than 30 curatorial projects throughout her career. Indeed, her first major exhibition — 2008’s oral history project “We Were So Far Away:” The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools for Ottawa’s Legacy of Hope Foundation — is still in circulation across Canada today.

“That exhibit really sparked my interest in curatorial practice and what it can do for people who are from rural, remote and northern communities. Unlike in cities in southern Canada, a lot of places throughout the North — not just Inuit communities — don’t have access to conventional art galleries, don’t have southern Canada-style museums, and don’t necessarily have easy access to post-secondary programs to learn about being a curator or a museum professional. But we figured out how to make that exhibition tour throughout the North, so that the primary stakeholders in the project — Residential School Survivors and their families — could see their stories shared.”

Since that first major exhibition, the joy of Igloliorte’s career has been supporting community members to find innovative ways to share their stories and achieve success on their own terms. “I think big institutions in the south can also learn a lot from the resourcefulness of northerners,” she says.

Igloliorte’s multifaceted and interdisciplinary work aligns with UVic’s commitment to ʔetal nəwəl | ÁTOL,NEUEL, as well as its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals focused on quality education, decent work, economic growth, reduced inequalities and peace and justice.

Installation view of INUA:InuitNunangat Ungammuaktut Atautikkut(2021-2023) in the
main Inuit gallery at
Qaumajuq, courtesy of Winnepeg Art gallery (photo: Lindsay Reid)

Decolonizing and transforming

Now based in UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts as the Canada Research Excellence Chair in Decolonial and Transformational Indigenous Art Practice, the prestigious, eight-year position will advance reconciliation through the transformative power of art and innovative exhibition practices, and support a new generation of students, researchers, educators, curators and artists to drive change through artistic practice.

“I am really excited about the eight years to come,” says Igloliorte. “I feel really humbled by the trust that has been put in me to take this funding and to do good with it.”

Part of that good will include creating more capacity for diverse arts opportunities and leadership.

“A big part of what I want to do with this position is to bring more Indigenous Peoples into spaces that weren’t designed for them — but that they absolutely deserve to be in. How do we change the structures to make the institutions better and more welcoming and more inclusive? This new role is going to amplify things that we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

More than just decolonizing physical spaces, however, Igloliorte is equally passionate about extending the artistic reach of technology.

“Another pillar of this project is digital literacy and media arts skill sets,” she says. “Just like the lack of access to museums and galleries in the North, Indigenous people don’t necessarily have access to the same cutting-edge technologies that others do.”

On a practical level, Igloliorte says that means removing barriers and putting innovative media arts tools — like augmented reality and extended reality — into the hands of people through the creation of an Indigenous research-creation focused media arts lab. “They can experiment and see if they’re interested in bringing their current practices into a media art space . . .. The potential is there for people to grow in really exciting directions.”

Heather Igloliorte, center, with students and faculty during the 2022 Inuit Futures curatorial institute, visiting the
Inuit and Sami-led exhibition 
ᐊᖏᕐᕋᒧᑦ / Ruovttu Guvlui / Towards Home, Dec. 3, 2022 (Photo: Julien Cadena)

A perfect home at UVic

For Igloliorte, there’s no better place to be based than UVic and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Already home to notable Indigenous artists like Kwagiulth/Salish/Settler Witness Blanket creator and UVic Impact Chair Carey Newman, Métis poet Gregory Scofield and Navajo futurist Danielle Geller, the Faculty of Fine Arts also hosts the Audain Professorship in Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest. This long-running, donor-funded, limited-term position has been held by such internationally acclaimed Indigenous artists as Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Rande Cook (among others), and is currently held by Kanienke’haka performance artist Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde.

“What an amazing environment!” exclaims Igloliorte enthusiastically. “I can’t believe there are over 70 Indigenous faculty members here at UVic. I don’t know that there’s anywhere else in the country like it.”

Igloliorte is excited to join UVic’s Department of Visual Arts alongside the likes of Newman and globally recognized digital artists Kelly Richardson and Paul Walde.

“It seems like a great fit,” she says, noting current faculty work around technology, climate change, the environment, media arts and decolonization. “There is so much work that overlaps with — and will help to expand — the potential of what this research chair should be. I think we’re going to do a lot of good work together.”

The CERC program, jointly administered by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), supports world-renowned researchers and their teams to establish ambitious research programs at Canadian universities.

New sxʷiʔe’m Indigenous Writers & Storyteller Series launches

When the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series launches at UVic on November 10, it will be offered as a gift to the community by the Department of Writing and professor Gregory Scofield.

“My goal is to honor the nations on whose territory we live, and to celebrate and honour the writers and storytellers in our communities,” he says.

To launch this latest offering in Victoria’s literary landscape, the Writing department is honouring two acclaimed alumni: Syilx Okanagan multidisciplinary author Jeannette Armstrong — an Order of Canada recipient and founder of Penticton’s acclaimed En’owkin Centre — and award-winning WSÁNEC poet Philip Kevin Paul, a past Governor General’s Award poetry finalist and former instructor with the Writing department.

Gregory Scofield

“Jeannette Armstrong is a matriarch, an author, a storyteller and an incredible educator working in language revival,” says Scofield. “Philip Kevin Paul is an amazing poet and storyteller, as well as a local knowledge keeper and SENĆOŦEN language speaker. I’m very excited to be able to celebrate these writers and storytellers.”

Indeed, both our Writing department and the Faculty of Fine Arts have a long history with the En’owkin Centre, whose Foundations Indigenous Fine Arts Progam ladders towards a UVic BFA.

An exciting time for Indigenous writers & storytellers

Inspired by a similar series he ran while teaching at Ontario’s Laurentian University, Scofield began working on this new series shortly after joining UVic’s Writing department in 2019.

“It has been and continues to be a very exciting time for Indigenous writers and storytellers,” he says. “There are so many important stories to be shared, told and celebrated across Turtle Island through the mediums of literature, film, music, dance and oral storytelling.”

Armstrong and Paul are among a number of notable Indigenous alumni who have graduated from the Writing department over the years, including the award-winning likes of Haisla & Heiltsuk novelist Eden Robinson and multidisciplinary Tłı̨chǫ Dene author Richard Van Camp — both of whom originally came from the En’owkin Centre program — plus Métis & Trinidadian poet Cara-Lyn Morgan, and Xaxli’p & Métis freelance journalist Jenessa Joy Klukas, to name a few.

“We now have specific generations of Indigenous writers: there’s the writers of Jeannette’s era and the writers of my own generation, plus new writers like Billy-Ray Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead and Shari Narine,” says Scofield. “As more Canadians become aware of truth and reconciliation, more people are reading works by Indigenous writers and gaining knowledge of our history.”

All are welcome to join in the celebration of the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series, starting at 7:00pm Friday, November 10, in UVic’s First Peoples House.

Orion Series presents Duncan McCue

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Duncan McCue

Visiting journalist

9:30am (PST) Tuesday, October 17, 2023 

Online class visit only

Presented by UVic’s Department of Writing

For more information on this lecture please email: writing@uvic.ca

 

 

Anishinaabe journalist and educator Duncan McCue is the author of Decolonizing Journalism: A Guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities. His talk with Writing’s Environmental Journalism class will draw on his award-winning podcast Kuper Island for a thoughtful reflection on building respectful relationships with Indigenous communities and how Canadians can take meaningful steps toward reconciliation. 

McCue will also present the separate online talk “Beyond Kuper Island: A Journalist’s Reflection on Truth and Reconciliation”,  presented by the Department of Germanic & Slavic Studies and the Faculty of Humanities.

This talk happens at 7pm Thursday, October 19, online only via Zoom: register here to get the link

About Duncan McCue

Duncan McCue is an award-winning CBC broadcaster and leading advocate for fostering the connection between journalism and Indigenous communities. He was the host of Helluva Story on CBC Radio and was also the driving force behind Kuper Island, a remarkable eight-part podcast series on residential schools.

McCue was with CBC News for 25 years. In addition to hosting CBC Radio One’s Cross Country Checkup, he was a longstanding correspondent for CBC-TV’s flagship news show, The National, and continues to maintain an association with CBC.

He joined Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication on July 1, 2023 and is an associate professor, specializing in Indigenous journalism and storytelling. He has also taught journalism and created courses at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism and Toronto Metropolitan University and also as a visiting fellow at Carleton.

Over the years he developed a unique online resource, Reporting in Indigenous Communities, which inspired his latest work, a new textbook called Decolonizing Journalism: A Guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities. McCue is also the author of The Shoe Boy: A Trapline Memoir, which recounts a season he spent in a hunting camp with a Cree family in northern Quebec as a teenager.

McCue studied English at the University of King’s College, then did his law degree at UBC. He was called to the bar in British Columbia in 1998.

McCue is Anishinaabe, a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation in southern Ontario.

 

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

Phoenix season kicks off with shows for the young & the young-at-heart

The cast of The Woman Who Outshone The Sun (photo: Megan Farrell)

Proving that experience matters when it comes to creating impactful productions, Phoenix Theatre is offering an all-alumni directed season—ideally matched to UVic’s upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations.

It all kicks off with two productions that speak to Phoenix’s past and present: Applied Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil directs SETYA, the latest in the continuing Staging Equality series, while sessional instructor Alistair Newton offers The Importance of Being Earnest—Oscar Wilde’s 128-year-old classic comedy that (surprisingly) has never been presented before on campus.

Staging Equality: Theatre for Young Audiences

SETYA offers a double bill of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun and Shi-shi-etko, two children’s stories ideally suited to Staging Equality’s mandate of offering IBPoC-focused performances. “We wanted stories by and about Indigenous and people of color to be accessible to our young audiences and their families, and I think this show will deliver,” says Kandil. “These two stories both talk about important issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada and in Latin America.”

With four productions staged over the past two years (Journey to Mapu, Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story, Im:print and It’s Just Black Hair), SETYA sees the return of previous Staging Equality partners as narrators here: Paulina Grainger of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (The Woman who Outshone the Sun) and Kwakwaka’wakw performer and UVic En’owkin School alum Krystal Cook (Shi-shi-etko).

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

SETYA director Yasmine Kandil (photo: Megan Farrell)

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Catherine Lemmon)

Feeling Earnest

While SETYA focuses on young audiences, The Importance of Being Earnest is a perennially popular production that has never gone out of style since its 1895 debut. What’s the appeal for a very contemporary director like Alistair Newton?

“Aside from the obvious answer that it has got to be one of the greatest works of comic writing in the English language, it’s also a work coded with all sorts of transgressive satire—much of which would only have been legible to those members of the audience with the right ear to hear it,” he says. “Populism with a wicked satirical edge has always been irresistible to me.”

Newton, who is also teaching Theatre’s fall elective on drag culture and was just announced as a director for the prestigious Shaw Festival’s 2024 season, says he enjoys “excavating the hidden histories and secret codes” of what’s often described as classical theatre.

Earnest is so constantly revived that it almost feels like a meme at this point, rather than a play,” he explains. “True, the 19th century gave us hysterical sexual repression and the codification of rigid gender roles, but it also gave us radicals who rebelliously pushed back—like the pioneering sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the Danish artist and trans woman Lili Elbe, and William Dorsey Swann, an enslaved black activist and drag performer who was likely the first person to refer to himself as a ‘queen’.”

Much like SETYA, Newton feels Earnest will also resonate with Phoenix audiences.

“Oscar Wilde loved a paradox, and both his legacy and the history of Earnest has sort of become one: at the time of his arrest for ‘gross indecency’, Wilde had two hit shows running in the West End and had completely conquered mainstream boulevard entertainment in London—but, at the same time, his queerness was considered so scandalous by his society that they had to forcibly remove him from their midst.”

Finally, as a returning alumni, how does it feel for Newton to be back at the Phoenix—both directing and teaching? “A lot of things change in a couple of decades, but some things are exactly how I left them: the graffiti on the scene shop wall and the very particular smell as you first enter the Roger Bishop Theatre,” he quips.

“But I think my favourite change is something I perceive in the students: they seem much more willing to advocate for themselves and to challenge orthodoxies, ideas of canon and the educational status quo. At the risk of sounding like an old queen, the kids definitely seem alright to me.”

SETYA runs October 12-14 + 19-21 while The Importance of Being Earnest runs November 9-25, both at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre