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NANCY KING – OGIMAAKWEBNES, CHIEF LADY BIRD

NK

Violence Against The Land
Mixed Media on Canvas
18x24 inches
2016

Statement:
When we think about Truth and Reconciliation the first narratives that come to mind are directly connected to residential schools and the notion of cultural genocide. Collectively, we can recognize that the Truth and Reconciliation commission is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non­Indigenous people through acknowledgement of the past and the ability to take action to heal our nations and prepare for a better future. For me, the idea of learning from our past to restore the future encompasses Indigenous futurisms, Indigenous feminism, and the 7 Generations teaching.

The trauma that has been inflicted ripples through our nations; the intergenerational effects are very present, through our loss of languages; the violence that is directed at our sisters as the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women continues to grow; and the sense of hopelessness within our youth that causes them to rationalize that suicide is the only answer. These, among countless other things, are the repercussions of cultural genocide and we are at a point in our society where it is time to seek unity and work together to heal.

For my response to this project, I zoned in on the concept of cultural excavation, which was very evident in the piece that Peter Adams created. I thought about how we are not above nature, rather we are a part of it. Humans have disrespected our mother earth through the excavation and ownership of the land. I remember watching a video of Lee Maracle in 2012 wherein she discusses the fact that violence against the land is directly related to the violence that is happening against our women through a disconnection from ancient knowledge and blood memory; the settlers who came to this continent have been disconnected from their traditional landscapes and through assimilation tactics, have attempted to sever our connections as well. It will be integral to our future that we re­establish our relationship with the land and our teachings.

According to Diné writer Lindsey Catherine Cornum, Indigenous Futurism is a movement that continuously re­hashes narratives of 'the final frontier,' and explores the notion of bringing our traditions with us into the future instead of leaving them in the past. My piece depicts a fancy shawl dancer praying in front of smoke­stacks, the pollution floating up into a starry sky. This image directly plays into Indigenous futurism and our seven generations teaching because we must consider how our actions now are going to affect the generations to come; we are borrowing this land from our children.

The beaded glyphs floating through the sky symbolize a language that I do not have as a result of Canada’s assimilation tactics. The beaded glyphs are fragments of visual language that reference wampum belts, syllabics and petroglyphs: pieces of visual language that have served as stories and treaties. The glyphs are nonsensical but they imply that they hold meaning; they convince the viewer that they should mean something and create tension and frustration between the work and viewer, to emulate the frustration that many Indigenous nations feel who aren’t able to speak their traditional languages.

It is integral to our healing journey and our future that we reclaim our relationship to the land, our culture and our language.

Chi miigwech.

Bio: 
I am a First Nations (Potawatomi and Chippewa) artist from Rama First Nation with paternal ties to Moosedeer Point First Nation. MY Anishinaabe name is Ogimaakwebnes, which means Chief Lady Bird. i completed my BFA in 2015 in Drawing and Painting with a minor in Indigenous Visual Culture at OCAD University. I have been exhibiting my work since I was fourteen years old.

Through my art practice I look to the past (both historically and traditionally) to help navigate my Anishinaabe identity whilst living in an urban space. My art also advocates for Indigenous representation as an integral aspect of Canada's national identity. I address the complexity of identity and the resilience of Indigenous nations, specifically through a feminist lens, through the use of contemporary painting techniques, Woodlands style imagery, photography, digital manipulation and beadwork.

My current series of works employs “beaded glyphs” as fragments of made up visual language. The glyphs reference wampum belts (beaded visual treaties), syllabics and petroglyphs as a way of understanding the loss of language and culture through Canada’s cultural genocide. These beaded glyphs convince the viewer that they mean something. The tension and frustration that they create between the work and the viewer emulate the frustration that many Indigenous nations feel who aren’t fluent in their traditional languages.

I also work with at-risk Native youth at the Native Learning Centre to share artistic knowledge and skills and provide a safe space for youth to create and express themselves. I am on the Aboriginal Artist list NAC10 of the Toronto District School Board and am a resource artist for many schools across the Greater Toronto Area, teaching students about Native art and providing a contemporary context. In addition, I work as a muralist and often uses my murals as a teaching tool, emphasizing the impact that visual culture has on people's everyday lives.