Beadwork as resistance

When it comes to beadwork, a design is created bead by bead, row by row: it’s much the same in writing, where poems and stories are created word by word, line by line. But for award-winning poet, memoirist and University of Victoria writing professor Gregory Scofield—also a traditional Cree-Metis beadworker—the two art forms are intimately connected through his creative practice and teaching.

As a child, Scofield recalls how he would sit with his auntie at her kitchen table while she was beading, learning Cree and listening as she shared family and traditional stories. “As I listened and learned, I became interested in beadwork and creating something—so I’ve always linked the act of creativity to storytelling,” he explains. “There’s something quite sacred about listening and working with your hands at the same time.”

Current awareness of beadwork

With archaeological evidence dating back thousands of years before European contact, the practice of Indigenous beadwork has never stopped—yet is flourishing in contemporary media, and the exhibit On Beaded Ground at UVic’s Legacy Gallery until September 18, 2021.

“There’s definitely more awareness and appreciation of beadwork,” he says. “But it’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t just a homogenous Indigenous expression: people work in the mediums of their own nations.”

Cree-Metis floral beadwork

As a Red River Metis of Cree, Scottish and European descent, Scofield practices traditional 19th century Cree-Metis floral beadwork. An example of his own work is seen here on the right: a Cree-Métis panel/fire bag using all traditional materials. 

“Towards the end of the 19th century, there were huge changes for Indigenous and Metis people . . . there were incredible obstacles, and communities ended up completely impoverished. Women were sewing as supplemental income to support their families, and a lot of those pieces ended up in the tourist trade.”

All of this unites in Scofield’s course on Indigenous women’s resistance writing and material art, which combines hands-on learning in traditional Cree-Metis beadwork with readings, films and writing practice centered on resurgence and resistance.

 

“Because everything happened for me at that kitchen table . . . I wanted to be able to bring that mental, emotional and tactile experience to students, who really have very little understanding or knowledge of Indigenous history or the impacts of colonial violence toward Indigenous women,” he explains.

“I teach my students how Indigenous women used beadwork as a way to resist colonial violence, as a way of maintaining and preserving identity—but also as a way of telling stories. It’s beadwork as a form of resistance.”

Repatriating beadwork

Another form of resistance is Scofield’s history of repatriating beadwork pieces—a practice which began years ago when he noticed a beaded pocket-watch holder in a Royal BC Museum display mislabeled as “Victoriana,” when he recognized it as a piece of 19th century Cree-Metis beadwork. He holds many such pieces in his own collection (seen in photo above). 

“I often refer to myself as an ‘unintentional curator’ because a lot of specifically Cree-Metis pieces are folded into other First Nations or Victoriana exhibits, because curators haven’t any idea about us as a people and our unique artforms,” he says. “By misidentifying them, the stories and geography are stripped away, and communities are stripped of their identity too.” 

Ever the poet, Scofield sees this as more than just repatriation. 

“It’s about giving these pieces their stories back.”

Gregory Scofield: fast facts

  • Scofield traces his ancestry back to the fur trade era and the Metis community of Kinosota, Manitoba. In March 2021, he was named a recipient of the Order of Gabriel Dumont, one of the Métis Nation’s highest civilian honours. He has donated many pieces of repatriated beadwork to organizations like the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research.
  • One of Scofield’s poems—“The Sewing Circle”, from his 2011 collection Louis: The Heretic Poems—is permanently installed at the Batoche National Historic Site, where Louis Riel was defeated during the North-West Rebellion of 1885.
  • Scofield’s first memoir, Thunder Through My Veins, was selected for CBC’s 2021 Canada Reads longlist. The author of nine books, he is also the recipient of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the $25,000 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize, given to an accomplished mid-career poet.
  • Scofield has just released wapihkwanîy: A Beginner’s Guide to Métis Floral Beadwork (with co-author Amy Briley) through the Gabriel Dumont Institute. “I’m so proud of this book, and to be able to share all my aunty taught me,” he says.
  • See beautiful examples of Scofield’s own beadwork via his Instagram page: @metisboi.
  • Earlier this month, Gregory Scofield participated in “Kitchen Table Talk: The Beauty of Beading” as part of Legacy Gallery’s On Beaded Ground exhibit.

This story originally appeared as part of UVic’s monthly KnowlEDGE feature in the Times Colonist newspaper on June 27, 2021. KnowlEDGE is a continuing series highlighting the research and creative practice of UVic professors and graduate students.  

Banting Fellow & Vanier Scholar named in Fine Arts

Fine Arts researchers and creative practitioners Taylor Brook and Troy Sebastian are among UVic’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars,

“Congratulations to Taylor and Troy,” says Acting Dean Allana Lindgren. “Having a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow and a Vanier Scholar in the Faculty of Fine Arts is an honour.”

Together with Canada’s federal granting agencies, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada announced the results of the 2020-2021 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships competitions on July 15.

“Both Taylor and Troy are highly talented and accomplished young artists/scholars, so it is very satisfying to see the excellence of their creative work and research recognized at the national level,” says Lindgren. “I am confident that their expertise, creativity, and aspirations will enrich our community.”

Taylor Brook

School of Music composer Taylor Brook is one of four UVic recipients of the Banting fellowships. The federal program is designed to build world-class research capacity by recruiting top-tier postdoctoral researchers at an internationally competitive level of funding.

The two-year Banting fellowships are worth $70,000 per year. They are open to both Canadian and international researchers who have recently completed a PhD, PhD-equivalent or health professional degree and other eligibility criteria. UVic’s other three recipients are Kristina Barclay (Biology and Anthropology), Simon Blouin (Physics and Astronomy), and Gillian Kolla (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research).

A Canadian composer who writes for the concert stage, video, theatre, dance and robotic instruments, Brook’s compositions have been performed by ensembles and soloists worldwide. A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, he has won numerous SOCAN Young Composers awards, including the 2016 grand prize, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University.

 

Brook’s music is often concerned with finely tuned microtonal sonorities, combining his interest in exploring the perceptual qualities of sound with a unique sense of beauty and form. Current projects include a new concerto grosso for the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet with the Partch Ensemble and a concert-length piece for the NYC-based TAK Ensemble.

As part of his SSHRC project, he will be writing a new composition for the Aventa Ensemble, to be performed in 2023.

“I am thrilled to begin my research at the University of Victoria as a Banting Fellow. My research will develop a novel framework for cross-cultural musical analysis that overcomes limitations engendered by Western musical notation. I hope to build a greater understanding of tuning and temperament as an expressive force in music as well as contribute to a broader effort in musicology, composition and music theory to decolonize the curriculum in higher education.​”
—Taylor Brook

SSHRC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Troy Sebastian | nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Department of Writing alumnus and instructor Troy Sebastian is one of three UVic researchers named as Vanier Scholars in the annual competition by the Government of Canada.

The scholarships are earmarked for social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. Vanier scholars, who receive $50,000 funding each year for three years, demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies. UVic’s other two recipients are Dorothea Harris (Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies) and Lucie Kotesovska (English).

A Ktunaxa writer from ʔaq̓am, Sebastian’s research and creative practice focuses on memoir, Indigenous masculinities, Canadian military history, Ktunaxa nation building and Ktunaxa language revitalization. His proposed PhD program is a special arrangement between the Department of Writing and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

 

“My Vanier scholarship will focus on celebrating who we and our history in our ancestral homelands by researching the life and service of a Ktunaxa veteran who was killed in action during World War II,” says Sebastian.

A graduate of UVic’s Writing MFA program and an instructor with the department, Sebastian was selected for the 2020 Writer’s Trust Rising Star program, is a recipient Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Reveal – Indigenous Arts Award and is also a graduate of the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Writers program.

His writing has been longlisted for the 2019 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize, both the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize and 2018 CBC Short Story Prize, and he has been published in Best Canadian Stories 2019, The Walrus, Ktuqcqakyam, The New Quarterly, Quill and QuirePrairie Fire and The Malahat Review.

“My research and artistic practice centres on Ktunaxa language, storytelling, morality and ethics, and is dedicated to the empowerment of the Ktunaxa Nation’s vision statement: ‘Strong, healthy citizens and communities, speaking our languages and celebrating who we are and our history in our ancestral homelands, working together, managing our lands and resources, within a self-sufficient, self-governing Nation.’”
—Troy Sebastian | nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar

Kelly Richardson working with UN Biodiversity

If you could imagine a future for our planet’s biodiversity, what would it be? Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson has been invited by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to do just that as part of a global collaborative artwork to celebrate the world’s biodiversity and urge for its protection.

Imagine compassion for nature

“The opportunity to imagine our potential futures on this platform is substantial in terms of audience reach,” says Richardson. “The idea is to awaken compassion for nature and imagine our different potential futures using images of my work—from the unthinkable to a radically different future should priorities take a dramatic turn.”

Richardson is one of six international artists and scientists invited to participate in the global Instagram movement @withnature2020 on June 25.

Fusing art and science

Her dramatic images will be paired with messages intended to encourage reflection on our relationship with biodiversity: “Imagine if we valued the species which went extinct on Earth today, as though it was found on Mars. Imagine the radically different futures that will bring.”

“We have a limited window of time to act to change our collective futures,” says Richardson. “If people can visualise potential outcomes from insufficient address of our planet’s significant issues around biodiversity loss and climate change, it may result in an appreciation for what remains and a dramatic shift in priorities to protect it.”

A plausible future

An internationally acclaimed artist, Richardson creates video installations of rich and complex landscapes that have been manipulated using CGI, animation and sound. Her practice offers imaginative views and constructions of the future plausible enough to prompt careful consideration of the present.

Underpinning her research is a critical and often collaborative engagement with scientists, philosophers and writers whose work engages with issues related to climate change.

Follow the UN Biodiversity feed on Instagram

Dennis Gupa: from sea rituals to applied theatre and science

Dennis Gupa in February 2021. (Photo: John Threlfall)

The idea of artists working with scientists is nothing new to Dennis Gupa.

A PhD candidate in UVic’s theatre department, Gupa is also the current artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. He sees the artistic residency, launched by the Faculty of Fine Arts and ONC two years ago, as a natural fit with his doctoral focus on Indigenous sea rituals, climate change and sustainable ecology.

While Gupa’s term at ONC will wrap up this spring, he’s also finishing his doctoral work in applied theatre under the supervision of theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yetka, whose experience in community-engaged research includes projects in Indigenous language revitalization through theatre with children in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, young people in Brazilian favelas, young women in rural areas of Cambodia and students with special needs in schools in The Netherlands.

As with any applied theatre practitioner, Gupa also wants to use the tools of theatre and drama to help bring about social change and build a sense of community—and, in his case, to attempt to grapple with the gravity of global warming especially in the island nations of the world.

Strengthening connections between art and science

Sharing stories is exactly what Gupa has in mind with the ONC initiative: recently repositioned as an opportunity for Fine Arts graduate students, the ONC artist-in-residence program exists to strengthen connections between art and science, and ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges around the major issues facing oceans today.

“This residency program comes at a time of crisis in ocean sustainability,” ONC chief scientist Kim Juniper. “Science-art collaborations such as this one bring together the insight and power of two ways of looking at the world, and will hopefully lead to new understanding and greater benefits for our ocean and our future.”

While the pandemic is complicating Gupa’s original idea to create an immersive, ONC data-fueled performance experience involving the Filipino diaspora community—including playwright Karla Comanda, classical singer Jeremiah Carag, Philippine-based composer Darren Vega and Vietnamese-Canadian actor Thai-Hoa Le—Gupa is still hopeful about uniting these two worlds during his spring 2021 residency.

“How can we share our stories with the scientists, and what does that mean to them to listen to immigrants?” Gupa ponders. “How does our history of exile connect with the history of climate disaster? We’ve never really tapped into that or discussed it in a scientific space.”

For Gupa, the ONC residency is less a challenge and more a cumulative opportunity between his artistic and academic pursuits.

“There’s a lesson in fluidity that this water is teaching me and I’d like to bring that to the fore in my work … it’s not just a fascination, but water is so embodied in my work as an artist. It’s beautiful but it’s also dangerous. We cannot wait any longer for inclusive and deeper collaborations to make things better for all living things in this earth—both seen and unseen.”

Ces Bersez, Dennis Gupa, & Francis Matheu in “Murupuro/Island of Constellations” at Prairie Theatre Exchange in 2018. (Photo: Migrante Manitoba FB web page)

Social justice for the seas

“When we think of the water, I think of social justice,” Gupa adds. “As an archipelagic country surrounded by water, the Philippines have been suffering from ocean disasters due to climate change: resources are depleting, coral are bleaching, fish are dying and the waters are warming so the fish don’t have food. So what do they do? They migrate, just like Filipinos—fish are the first climate refugees.”

Gupa has also been looking at how climate change has impacted Canadian Filipino diaspora communities, with whom he created and then toured a highly collaborative theatrical production in 2018 (Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg).

Gupa performing the mask of Imelda Marcos during his production of “Murupuro”. (Photo: Fiona Ngai)

Applied theatre, traditional knowledge and climate crisis

Having grown up in the Philippines, Gupa has witnessed firsthand the threat of extreme weather events. With his country being a former colony—extending across 7,600 islands and known for its maritime history, marine diversity and Indigenous population—the parallels between the Philippines and Vancouver Island are clear to Gupa. He says this is probably the reason he decided to do his grad studies at UVic.

“By looking at the experience and knowledge of local people—who have been experiencing these climatic events for so many years, but are not really given a lot of opportunities to tell their stories—we can learn from their knowledge and wisdom,” he says. “Our poetries and songs renew our kinship with the ocean.”

Gupa’s research focuses on traditional ways of knowing, as well as storytelling and applied theatre, and how these elements can be drawn into important discussions and dialogue in support of social justice, community participation and climate action.

A youth theatre project in 2015 co-directed by Gupa for a rural high school “glee club” in the Philippines. (Photo: The Perfect Grey | ASEAN Center for Biodiversity)

And he very much believes in bringing people together to share stories. Gupa says, “I create interdisciplinary work with a kinship among knowledge disciplines. One of the fascinating functions of an artist is being an interlocutor, bringing people together to share our stories.”

He conducted field work in the Samar-Leyte region of the Philippines, working closely with local elders on the island community of Guiuan, where the super typhoon Yolanda in 2013—one of the deadliest on record—first made landfall.

Interdisciplinary conversations on global issues

In addition to collaborating with ONC at UVic, Gupa was a visiting graduate research fellow at UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society in 2019/20 and a recipient of a 2017 student research fellowship from the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives at UVic. He is also a Vanier Scholar.

“Scientists spend hours in their labs thinking about their work, similar to what theatre and performance artists do in their rehearsal spaces,” he says. “We’re all exploring and searching for meaning; this kind of interdisciplinary conversation simply lets us be better adjusted to global issues.”

Gupa also spent a decade at the University of the Philippines Los Baños where, in addition to teaching theatre, he was named the first head of the Office of Arts and Science Fusion Program.

In 2011, Gupa received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council (established by John D. Rockefeller III) for six months in as the director-in-residence with Ma-Yi Theatre Company in New York City.

His collaborative work has also won support from the British Columbia Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, World Bank Manila Office/Australian Agency for International Development, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the Dharmasiswa Scholarship through the Indonesian government’s Ministry of Education, among many others.

Gupa has an MFA Directing (Theatre) degree from UBC and an MA (Theatre) from University of the Philippines.

Gupa wearing a traditional Filipino malong at a local beach in Victoria. (Photo: John Threlfall)

Follow the social media feeds of both Fine Arts and ONC for developments on the artistic residency this spring.

Orion Series presents scholar Heather Igloliorte

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:

Heather Igloliorte

Research Chair, Circumpolar Indigenous Arts

7:30 – 9:00 pm (PST) Wednesday, March 10 2021

 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

Presented by UVic’s Department of Visual Arts
For more information on this lecture please email: visualarts@uvic.ca 

Advancing Indigenous knowledge 

Dr. Heather Igloliorte (Inuk, Nunatsiavut) holds the Tier 1 University Research Chair in Circumpolar Indigenous Arts and is an associate professor in the Department of Art History at Concordia. She also serves as the special advisor to the provost on advancing Indigenous knowledges, and in this role contributes to the efforts of the university’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group. Her teaching and research interests center on Inuit and other Native North American visual and material culture, circumpolar art studies, performance and media art, the global exhibition of Indigenous arts and culture, and issues of colonization, sovereignty, resistance and resurgence. 

Indigenous futures

Heather is the principal investigator of the $2.5M, seven-year SSHRC Partnership Grant “Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq/ Pijariuqsarniq Project” (2018-2025), ​which aims to empower circumpolar Indigenous peoples to become leaders in the arts through training and mentorship. With Professor Jason Edward Lewis, Heather also Co-Directs the Indigenous Futures Cluster (IIF) in the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology. Through Milieux, Igloliorte works with collaborators and students to explore how Indigenous people are imagining the future of their families and communities. 

Heather has been a curator for 14 years, ​and currently has three exhibitions touring nationally and internationally; she is also the lead guest curator of the inaugural exhibition of INUA, the new Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Heather publishes frequently: she has co-edited special issues of journals PUBLIC 54: Indigenous Art: New Media and the Digital (2016) and RACAR: Continuities Between Eras: Indigenous Arts (2017), and her essay “Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum,” ​was awarded the 2017 Distinguished Article of the Year from Art Journal

Igloliorte currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Indigenous Circle for the Winnipeg Art Gallery, working on the development of the new national Inuit Art Centre; is the President of the Board of Directors of the Inuit Art Foundation; and serves on the Board of Directors for North America’s largest Indigenous art historical association, the Native North American Art Studies Association, the Faculty Council of the Otsego Institute for Native American Art History at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and the Nunavut Film Development Corporation, among others. Heather has previsously  served as an executive member of the board of directors for the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective and as the president of Ottawa’s artist-run-centre Gallery 101, in addition to other advisories, juries and councils. 

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.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at www.uvic.ca/events

New Legacy exhibit explores life stories through art

Technology and history may change across cultures and generations, but the human journey remains the same: we’re born, we age, we have relationships, we die. Yet along the way, we are all shaped by the objects which help us navigate life’s stages, passages and rituals—a favourite toy, say, or a wedding dress. This shared experience is at the heart of the new Legacy Gallery exhibit Life Stories, curated by art history & visual studies (AHVS) professor Erin Campbell.

“I like to use the present to interrogate the past,” says Campbell. “This was an extraordinary experiment for me to prove my historical contention that objects and artworks really do shape our life passages. I’ve published a lot of articles about that, and this exhibit gave me the chance to bring that thesis to the wider public.”

 

AHVS professor & Life Stories curator Erin Campbell at her Legacy Gallery exhibition (photo: John Threlfall)

A learning experience

A fixture in the AHVS department for nearly 20 years, Campbell’s research and teaching typically focuses on early modern European art and material culture, including cross-cultural connections and the domestic interior—yet she admits mounting a full gallery exhibit was a learning experience for her.

“Some would say it’s a bit of a risk, because this isn’t about deeply delving into a historical period and bringing forward objects with new research—it’s more about developing a theme and capturing the imagination,” she explains.

 

An ambitious undertaking

Featuring nearly 100 paintings, drawings, photographs, textiles, ceramics and furnishings from UVic’s extension art collection—plus a virtual exhibition, a range of public events (including a special alumni tour on January 27) and one commissioned art piece (“Related Repose” by recent visual arts MFA Elly Heise)—Life Stories is an ambitious undertaking, supported by Campbell’s latest SSHRC grant.

“Because art has the capacity to both fix and layer time—project the past into the present and the future, or the future into the past—we wanted to explore similarities across cultures, across time and across geographies, but we also wanted to avoid sentimentality,” she says.

Indeed, while art and objects may inspire memories and reflection, such imagery can also be a source of cultural stereotypes and result in marginalization, emotional pain and feelings of loss. “It’s important to me that we’re not presenting a monolithic, prescriptive approach to life stages that ‘everyone’ goes through.”

Planning for Life Stories actually began back in 2017, but Campbell and the Legacy team were dealt a surprise plot twist when the exhibit collided with COVID-19. “We had to modify not only when it would open but also the level of visitor engagement with the gallery,” says Campbell.

 

Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (left) with a scene from her latest film, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, which is screening for free as part of her Feb 3 event

A range of online events

The exhibit includes a number of online events—including a public conversation between acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (Anthropocene: The Human Epoch) and local director/producer Barbara Todd Hager (February 3), as well as a series of interpretive performances (February 13, 20, 27) and an artist talk (March 17) with Connie Morey, and a  poetry workshop (March 6) with Carla Funk, both UVic alumni.

There’s also a fascinating set of interdisciplinary thematic films featuring a range of campus voices—including Maureen Bradley (writing), Neena Chappell (Centre on Aging), Aaron Devor (transgender studies), Ulrich Mueller (psychology), Leah Tidey (theatre), Lorilee Wastasecoot (Legacy) and Victoria Wyatt (AHVS)—and a series of soundscapes responding to the exhibit, created by students in Anthropology professor Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier’s “Anthropology of Sound” class.

“Related Reposed”, a piece created by recent Visual Arts MFA Elly Heise using this antique bed from the UVic Art Collection as inspiration

A team effort

While she coordinated the AHVS 50th anniversary exhibit at the McPherson Library’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery in 2017, this is Campbell’s first time curating an exhibit at downtown’s Legacy Gallery and she laughs at the misperception that all art historians are also, by default, curators. “I am not a professional curator,” she says with a gentle laugh. “It’s a totally different skill-set . . . you need to acquire those skills, you can’t just do it.”

Campbell gives ample credit to the work of her Life Stories co-curators, Holly Cecil and current PhD candidate Jaiya Anka—both AHVS MA alumni. “We worked as a team, the three of us—it came out of my research and I funded it out of my grant, but we brainstormed every aspect of this exhibit together,” she notes. “And the support from the Legacy team has been just fantastic. I give full credit to their staff: to have their help and guidance was invaluable—they’re a really great UVic resource.”

Life Stories continues until April 3 at downtown’s Legacy Gallery.