Photographer Nadya Kwandibens is the recipient of the 2018 Ontario Arts Council Indigenous Arts Award. It celebrates the work of Indigenous artists and arts leaders who have made significant contributions to the arts in the province.
This award comes with a $10,000 prize, which was presented June 24 during the Indigenous Arts Festival held at Fort York in Toronto.
Kwandibens is self-taught, and has both artistic and commercial practices through Red Works Photography, which aims to empower contemporary Indigenous lifestyles and cultures through photographic essays, features and portraits.
Her artistic practice centres on three ongoing bodies of work: Concrete Indians, Red Works Outtakes and emergence.
She is currently developing a multimedia series, The Kitchen Table Talks, which will explore diverse perspectives on matrilineal leadership and nationhood. She has also published a photo book called Idle No More, reads a press statement.
Kwandibens is a member of the Indigenous Laws and The Arts Collective, which paired artists and legal thinkers for Testify, a travelling multimedia exhibition exploring Indigenous law through the arts.
“Nadya is an intrepid, ground-breaking and influential artist,” noted the jury members, who were unanimous in their choice for this year’s award. Jurors for the 2018 award were playwright Falen Johnson (Toronto), curator/visual artist Clayton Windatt (North Bay) and musicologist/journalist/broadcaster Brian Wright-McLeod (Toronto).
“She has brought an Indigenous voice to portrait photography that recontextualizes images and shows us our true selves.”
The Indigenous Arts Award also honours emerging leadership. Each year, the award recipient is invited to nominate a rising Indigenous artist or arts professional to receive a $2,500 prize. Kwandibens selected photographer Melissa General as this year’s emerging laureate.
General is Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, currently living in Toronto.
A multidisciplinary artist, General works in photography, audio, video and installation. Her practice is focused on her home territory of Six Nations and the concepts of memory, language and land.