Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
This upcoming weekend marks the opening of the new Dis(place)ment: Explorations of Place, Past, Present and Future exhibit at Vancouver’s Skwachàys Lodge Gallery.
The exhibit “attempts to highlight the issue of displacement in Indigenous communities while simultaneously inspiring individuals to create their own spaces through sharing culture, through self-reflection and through community-building.” It will run from Nov. 7 until Nov. 23.
First-time curator Cheyenne (Natoyihkii) McGinnis is behind the Dis(placement) exhibit. She is a Blackfoot/Cree artist with ties to the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe) and the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, both located in Alberta.
“The history of displacement has really put us in this time where we’re looking to see what our cultures will be like in the future. Our culture, our languages and community,” she said.
The exhibit will be part of the larger annual Eastside Culture Crawl event, which features more than 250 artists in Vancouver’s east side and has run in some form since 1995. The exhibit is also run in partnership with the Carnegie Centre Association, a local non-profit organization.
McGinnis said the exhibit works to emphasize how displacement has shaped the Indigenous experience within Canada.
“The past issues are how we’ve come to be: where we as Indigenous peoples have been placed within Canada, often off of our traditional territories. It can also create displacement in culture and understanding of histories and who we are as Indigenous people.”
McGinnis said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been much of the inspiration behind the “present” feelings of displacement.
“How do we work within this pandemic to still create this sense of community? I think that’s really interesting and why I chose this idea of displacement,” McGinnis said.
“Right now a lot of things are happening virtually and that’s given us a lot of feelings of displacement within our own lives and within our own social spheres.”
McGinnis said the work is being inspired by how different Indigenous populations have been innovative in their efforts to connect to their heritage.
“There’s some great strides coming from certain nations that are looking at technology to promote, capture and retain their cultures and languages,” she said.
Soloman Chiniquay, Charlene Johnny, Hugh Kearney, Michelle Sound, Chantelle Trainor-Matties, and Charles Ya-ya Heit are the team of six Indigenous artists selected by McGinnis to have their work on display.
“That was really cool to see that the word got out to the community and that these people jumped on board to be a part of this exhibit,” McGinnis said. “I think that's really exciting.”
“Indigenous art is starting to come more to the forefront to this idea of place-making,” McGinnis said, explaining the exhibit explores questions like: Where do we fit? How do we create spaces that are comfortable for us and unique to our culture?
McGinnis, a Haskayne School of Business graduate of the University of Calgary, says that one of her aspirations is to help build ongoing partnerships in both the business and artistic spheres. She says she’s looking to promote financial literacy and help other artists with the commercial aspects that are involved in a creative career path.
Outside of her work with the gallery, McGinnis operates Indigenous Busy-ness, a blog that showcases Indigenous artists and businesses, as well as offers a shop for her artwork and jewelry.
“We can all help each other,” she said. “Collaboration from artist-to-artist really helps us to be better artists because we learn from each other. I think that that's really, really something I like to focus on.”
McGinnis says her own career beginnings in art were largely inspired through the work of two of her uncles, Rob and Francis First Charger, who both have extensive backgrounds in Indigenous art.
The Dis(place)ment exhibit will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. More information about the exhibit and the featured artists can be found on the Eastside Culture Crawl event page, available here.
McGinnis says she’s really looking forward to things getting underway.
“I’m feeling really excited to hear the feedback from the community as to how the exhibit works together,” she said.
“For many of our artists, this is their first time being exhibited. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to give them that platform as well.”
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.