Mi’gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby kicks off Indigeneity & the Arts series

Fine Arts is proud to kick off its new Orion Series on Indigeneity and the Arts with a public presentation by acclaimed filmmaker, author & composer Jeff Barnaby.

Jeff Barnaby

Jeff Barnaby

While at UVic, Barnaby will be hosting a free screening some of his short films starting at 7pm Monday, Sept 26, in UVic’s David Lam Auditorium (MacLaurin A144), and will host a discussion and Q&A afterwards. He will also be making some classroom visits while on campus, talking with Fine Arts students in our various departments.

A Mi’gmaq member from Listuguj, Quebec, Barnaby was educated at Concordia University, and is best known for his 2013 feature film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. Barnaby’s first short film, From Cherry English (2005), won 2 Golden Sheaf awards (Yorkton) and played in dozens of festivals including Sundance, Tribecca, Fantasia, the Vancouver International Film Fest and the Atlantic International Film Fest; he has also created such acclaimed short films as The Colony (2007) and File Under Miscellaneous (2010).

He has been nominated for a Genie Award, won several other major awards and was named Best Director of a Canadian Film by the Vancouver Film Critics Circle in 2014. In 2015, Barnaby was one of four Indigenous directors invited to participate in the NFB documentary Souvenir. Watch his interview with George Stromboulopoulus here.

A scene from Jeff Barnaby's 2013 film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls

A scene from Jeff Barnaby’s 2013 film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls

The Orion Indigeneity Series is an important addition to our existing Orion Lecture series, which offers our students the opportunity to engage with numerous visiting professional artists each academic year. Fine Arts has a tradition of collaborating with indigenous artists, communities and scholars, and has been actively engaged in integrating culturally sensitive methodologies in our teaching, research and creative activity.

But the Orion Indigeneity Series is also our first phase of responding to the TRC recommendations and the UVic Indigenous Plan in meaningful and compelling ways, while simultaneously raising awareness of Indigenous cultural creativity for the UVic and wider community.

Jeff Barnaby is only the latest example of the people and projects we have been involved with in all five of our departments (Writing, Theatre, Art History & Visual Studies, Visual Arts, and the School of Music). Over the past few years, we’ve been working with the likes of artists Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Nicholas Galanin, Rande Cook and Jackson 2Bears in the Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest, hosting writers like Richard Wagamese and alumni Richard Van Camp, Eden Robinson and Philip Kevin Paul, holding workshops on indigenizing music education, using intergenerational applied theatre techniques to preserve the languages of the Hul’q’umi’num’ Treaty Group, and creating dynamic exhibits with Williams Legacy chair Dr. Carolyn Butler Palmer and guest artists Peter Morin and current Visual Arts MFA candidate Hjalmer Wenstob.

You can read more about Fine Arts and Indigeneity here.


Paths to Reconciliation

Situated on traditional Coast and Straits Salish territory, UVic is recognized for its commitment to and expertise in innovative programs and initiatives that support Indigenous students and communities. We recognize the special role the university can play in relation to Canada’s Indigenous peoples. We continue to build on our commitment to — and our greatly valued relationship with — Indigenous communities.

Peter Morin observes the big button blanket after it has been raised in First Peoples House (UVic Photo Services)

Peter Morin observes the big button blanket after it has been raised in First Peoples House (UVic Photo Services)

Our goal is to be the university of choice for Indigenous students, faculty and staff. One of the objectives in UVic’s Strategic Plan is to increase the number of Indigenous students graduating from all faculties, building on our commitment to and our unique relationship with Canada’s First Peoples.

UVic offers a growing range of courses and programs that reflect the cultural and historical perspectives of Indigenous people — including here in Fine Arts.

“The work of the instructors and students in the Faculty of Fine Arts embraces indigeneity and the arts as a means to embed Aboriginal perspectives and understandings into curriculum and research in meaningful and compelling ways,” says Dean Susan Lewis.

To this end, all five of our departments — Visual Arts, Writing, Theatre, Art History & Visual Studies, and the School of Music — have been involved with various people and projects over the past few years. Some, like Visual Arts, have established permanent positions, while others are exploring how Indigenous practices and knowledge can benefit their specific areas and students.

The Audain Professorship

In 2010, Governor General’s Award-winning artist Rebecca Belmore became the first Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest in the Visual Arts department — a continuing position that brings in different visiting artists. The 2011 Audain professor, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, described this unique rotating position as “a rare, needed and timely opportunity for Canadian society to reconsider its relationship to Indigeneity.”

Rande Cook and his class examine the pole he’s carving (Photo Services)

Now in its sixth year, the Audain Professorship has benefited from a variety of approaches and practices by all of its professors. Students gain valuable dynamic learning opportunities working alongside professional Indigenous artists. In addition to Rasmuson Fellowship winner Nicholas Galanin (2012), multimedia Kanien’kehaka artist and UVic MFA/PhD alumnus Jackson 2Bears spent two years as the Audain Professor (13/14), engaging with students. His 2014 Audain exhibit, For This Land, was created in collaboration with fellow Kanien’kehaka poet Janet Rogers.

’Namgis nation chief Rande Cook holds the 2016 Audain Professorship. A multi-disciplinary contemporary artist, Cook’s spring 2016 class focused on raising student awareness around current issues in Canadian first nations politics. “I wanted to design a course around the work I’m doing right now,” Cook explains, “which means looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the murdered and missing Indigenous women, Idle No More, the REDress project, the round dance movement . . . about healing and bridging.”

Noted alumni

Noted author Eden Robinson

Among the Department of Writing’s acclaimed alumni are celebrated Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation author Richard Van Camp, award-winning Haisla Nation author Eden Robinson and WSÁ,NEC Nation poet Phillip Kevin Paul. Van Camp — a noted author, screenwriter and storyteller — graduated in 1997 and has become one of Canada’s leading Indigenous authors. Robinson was shortlisted for both the Giller Prize & the Governor General’s Literary Award for her novel 2000 Monkey Beach, which subsequently won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Paul’s second book of poetry, Little Hunger, was shortlisted for a 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award and he has worked with UVic’s linguistics department to ensure the preservation of the SENCOTEN language.

Also in Writing, the late award-winning Ojibway author and journalist Richard Wagamese was 2011’s Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction for the Writing department. His course on “The Power of Stories” was very popular, and his public lecture was a standing-room only event.

And Brittany Postal was named the winner of the 2016 Aboriginal Youth Award. Postal is a student with the En’owkin Centre’s Indigenous Fine Arts program, developed in cooperation with UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Indigenous Artist in Residence

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde was selected as the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence in March 2017. An Iroquois Mohawk woman born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, Delaronde also holds a UVic MA in Indigenous Communities Counselling, and sees both her art and counseling practice as intertwined.

“I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she says. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

Recent projects

Graduating composition student Kim Farris-Manning presented her composition W̱SÁNEĆ SPW̱ELLO in April 2017. Combining music, dance and contemporary art in a collaboration between artists, students and elders, Indigenous people and settlers, this artistic collaboration featured students from both the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ tribal school in Brentwood Bay and UVic. The performance was held at the summit of SṈAKA (Mount Tolmie), and created a forum for thought and discussion surrounding respecting and honouring the earth and its people.

The School of Music’s Music Education Association recently hosted a series of workshops on “Indigenizing Music Education.” Funded by the Faculty of Education’s Community and Scholarship Fund, the workshops featured Alia Yeates, Butch Dick and others.

Hjalmer Wenstob at his 2016 exhibit, Emerging Through the Fog

In the spring of 2016, Nuu-chah-nulth artist and Visual Arts MFA candidate Hjalmer Wenstob presented the exhibit Emerging Through the Fog: Tsa-Qwa-Supp and Tlehpik – Together at UVic’s downtown Legacy Gallery. Featuring the work of Wenstob and the late “Fog-God” Art Thompson, the exhibit was co-curated by Wenstob and Art History’s Butler Palmer.

Applied Theatre professor & 2015 TEDxVictoria speaker Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta is currently involved in a three-year project with the Hul’q’umi’num’ Treaty Group to use intergenerational applied theatre techniques to preserve their language — now only spoken by about 65 elders.

Also in Theatre, alumna Will Weigler conceived of the brilliant and moving 2013 performance, From the Heart: Enter into the Journey of Reconciliation. This community-based project was set within a 14,000-square-foot indoor labyrinth in Victoria, where audiences encountered scenes encouraging non-Indigenous people to take responsibility for learning more about their history as a step toward solidarity with first nations, Metis & Inuit people. Weigler has since published a book on the project, which serves as both a record of the Victoria production and a template for other communities interested in developing their own version of it.

Student Ali Bosworth Rumm sews buttons onto the Big Button Blanket (photo: Michael Glendale, Martlet)

A button blanket is important to Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest for many reasons. Like a totem pole, it tells stories of people, places and events; it represents power and prestige; demonstrates extraordinary skill and sophisticated artistry; and creates a unique way of learning and knowing. That’s why Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer, in collaboration with Tahltan Nation artist, curator, and consulting instructor Peter Morin, decided to create a class project to make the biggest button blanket in the world in 2013.

The subsequent exhibit Adasla: The Movement of Hands was mounted at UVic’s Legacy Galley in 2014, and garnered a great deal of attention in the community and the media. The blanket’s inaugural dance at the opening ceremonies of UVic’s annual Diversity Research Forum at First People’s House in February 2014 was a stirring and memorable event for all who attended.

Future plans

The Faculty of Fine Arts began a new Orion Series on Indigeneity and the Arts in the 2016/17 academic year, with Mi’gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby as the first guest. More guests —including Indigenous writers, artists and scholars — will be invited to speak to our students and the general public each year.

Fine Arts is dedicated to embracing indigineity, and will continue to explore ways our students can benefit from more traditional ways of knowing.

Cedric Bomford wins $15,000 Canada Council award

Congratulations go out to Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford, who was announced on July 12 as the visual arts winner of the $15,000 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award.

Cedric Bomford (photo by Maneul Wagner)

Cedric Bomford (photo by Maneul Wagner)

Presented annually by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Awards are awarded for outstanding artistic achievement by Canadian mid-career artists in the disciplines of dance, inter-arts, media arts, music, theatre, visual arts, and writing and publishing.

“I’m extremely pleased on behalf of the Visual Arts department to congratulate our colleague Cedric Bomford on having his research recognized with this national award,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “Over the past year, Cedric has proven to be a tremendous asset to both the department and the UVic community and we are delighted to have him with us. He has a number of high profile research creation projects underway which will no doubt bring further accolades and recognition in the months and years to come.”

Bomford, who joined the Visual Arts department in September 2015, has seen his installation and photographic work exhibited internationally and has participated in residencies in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. His work often focuses on the power dynamics established by constructed spaces and takes the form of large-scale rambling ad hoc architectural installations.

The projects follow a methodology he calls “thinking through building” in which construction takes on an emergent quality rather than an illustrative one. Concurrent to this installation work is a rigorous photographic practice that operates at times in parallel with and at others tangentially to the installation works.

Deadhead-homepage-revisedWhile the majority of his projects are solo efforts, Bomford often works collaboratively with a number of different partners including his brother Nathan, and father Jim. He has also worked with other artists, including Verena Kaminiarz, Mark Dudiak and Carl Boutard. Recent projects include Deadhead, a production of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects in Vancouver and Substation Pavilion a public art commission in Vancouver, BC. Upcoming projects include a solo exhibition at the Esker Foundation in Calgary, Alberta and a public art commission in Seattle, Washington.

TC_BomfordThis fall, the work of the Bomfords will be featured in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria group exhibit It’s in the making, running from October 2016 to January 2017. The same exhibit will also present a site-specific work by Nicholas Galanin, the 2012 Audain Professor in Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest with the Department of Visual Arts, along with three other artists.

Earlier this month, the the Bomford’s intricate, interactive truck-mounted sculptural installation “Deadhead Redux” was featured as a one-day-only installation on the lawn of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Audain Professor Rande Cook raises awareness with class and art

One of the best things about an annual guest teaching position is the diversity it offers students. Now in its sixth year in the visual arts department, the Audain Professorship of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest has benefited from a variety of approaches and practices by previous professors—including the likes of Jackson 2Bears, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Nicholas Galanin and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore. But Rande Cook has one unique aspect not shared by his forerunners: he is the first Audain professor to represent a Vancouver Island nation.

Rande Cook at UVic (Photo Services)

Rande Cook at UVic (Photo Services)

Cook, a contemporary multi-disciplinary artist with a studio in Victoria’s Rock Bay district, is also chief of the ’Namgis nation, which spans northern Vancouver Island and Queen Charlotte Strait. “The chief’s role is to make sure his people are fed in all ways—metaphorically and otherwise—and I take that into my everyday practice, my life as an artist,” he explains. “How I interact with the community is the same as what I do at home. Even teaching this course involves all of my belief systems, making sure people feel whole.”

Cook wanted to do more than just teach art, however; he was also keen to raise student awareness about current issues in Canadian First Nations politics. “I wanted to design a course around the work I’m doing right now, which means looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the murdered and missing Indigenous women, Idle No More, the REDress project, the round dance movement . . . about healing and bridging,” he says.

No easy task, given that his third- and fourth-year students came from a variety of backgrounds—none of which included a first nation. “I pushed them to think about the relationship we play within all of this—not just as first nations but Canadians as a whole—and then to consider how we express that through art,” he says.”The whole class has been about peeling those layers and exploring these issues, then piecing it back together.”

Cook also brought indigenous teaching methods into the classroom by eschewing contemporary critiquing practices in favour of a more intimate, circle-based sharing environment. “The goal of the class is to decide how they’re going to function as artists and how to make their work authentic,” he explains. “And you can see how much they’ve grown, how much they interact, and how they’re going to place themselves in life after this—which is all I wanted.”

Rande Cook and his class examine the pole he's carving (Photo Services)

Rande Cook and his class examine the pole he’s carving (Photo Services)

While teaching at UVic, Cook is also busy in the visual arts sculpture yard carving a pole dedicated to the murdered and missing Indigenous women. “It’s a nation-wide issue, even though a lot of people don’t see it as such,” he says. “There are a lot of unresolved murders from our area, but nobody really talks about them—people tend to focus more geographically on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or the Highway of Tears.”

As both chief and artist, Cook feels art can play an important role in the healing process. “There’s no closure when it comes to murder—especially when the victims are never found—so I wanted to create something that stands as a monument to honour these women,” he explains. “It’s easy to talk about healing, about unity, but it’s difficult to practice that when there’s no sense of closure. So if I can put all of those different thoughts and ideas into this symbolic piece of art, it can be a way to recognize that they’re not forgotten.”

And while the future of the pole is still being determined, Cook feels the campus would be an ideal home for the piece once it is complete. “UVic is a place of knowledge, of learning, so why not use a monument like this for people coming from all these different areas to understand what that means? You think about healing and unity, and students and learning, and diversity and gender equality—it’s all right there.”

Jackson 2Bears reflects on two years as UVic’s Audain Professor

Having just completed two consecutive years as the University of Victoria’s Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest, Jackson 2Bears doesn’t hesitate to identify what he felt was the best part of the position in the Department of Visual Arts.

2Bears' 2014 Audain exhibit, "Iron Tomahawks"

2Bears’ 2014 Audain exhibit, “Iron Tomahawks”

“Interacting with students and engaging with their research and creative practice has truly been the highlight of my two terms,” he says. “I have always aspired to encourage students to draw from their own life experiences as a source for exploring new creative possibilities.”

Two years in the position allowed 2Bears the space to develop both his teaching methodology and creative practice—a luxury not enjoyed by previous Audain professors Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Nicholas Galanin, who served one term each.

“Over the past years I have had time to really think about the importance of space, land and territory—as well as my place in the world as a Kanienkehaka [Mohawk] person, and the spaces I occupy as Onkwehonwe [an Indigenous person],” he says. “My meditations on ‘place’ have given me even more respect, and made me more appreciative of having been a visitor and a guest on Lekwungen territory during my Audain residency.”

Students engage with 2Bears' "For This Land"

Students engage with 2Bears’ “For This Land”

One concrete result was For this Land, the first of a series of installation/performance artworks focusing on place and community. A collaborative project with Mohawk poet Janet Rogers, For this Land debuted at UVic’s Audain Gallery in September 2015; it was jointly inspired by Sioux philosopher Vine Deloria Jr.’s 1998 book of the same name and Chiefswood, Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson­’s childhood home on the Six Nations Reserve.

“Both my research and creative/artistic practice have led me back to Haudenosaunee territory, and back to Six Nations,” says 2Bears. “For several days Janet and I spent time on our home territory, exploring the heritage site and creatively engaging with the stories that Pauline left for us on the land. We documented elements of this—our actions, experiences and conversations—and created an aesthetic interpretation of our dialogues with this place, and in turn, the stories we wrote on the land.”

He also feels his creative focus has shifted due to his experience as Audain Professor. “I’ve come to realize that right now, the ‘work’ I need to do—not just as an artist, but as an individual—has everything to do with (re)connecting with my home, my community, my language, culture, people and land.”

Building on his time as UVic’s Audain Professor, 2Bears is now Professor of Native American Art Studio and Canada Research Chair at the University of Lethbridge. The Audain Professorship was instrumental in his being able to make the transition from PhD student to faculty member. “I look forward to sharing stories and times with all my new relations,” he concludes.