Beauty and Resilience: Indigenous Art in Canada

Curious Minds Online Course

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The art and culture of Turtle Island (North America) is immense, fascinating, and rich in its diversity. Focusing on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis artists, this timely and thought-provoking series from Gerald McMaster, an internationally renowned scholar, curator and professor at OCAD University, explores the many ways that Indigenous artists have contributed to the vibrancy of Canada’s visual art tradition. As he examines the thriving community of contemporary creators, such as Kent Monkman and Christi Belcourt, and the rich historical legacy of artists like Norval Morrisseau and Bill Reid—and the regional cultures and landscapes that have inspired their work—Dr. McMaster will offer a unique and visually stunning perspective on the complexity and ingenuity of the great artistic traditions that form our cultural bedrock.

Led by Gerald McMaster, one of Canada’s most distinguished artists, curators and scholars of Indigenous Art. A Plains Cree and member of the Siksika Nation in Alberta, Dr. McMaster is the Director of Wapatah, the Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge at OCAD University in Toronto, and has curated major exhibits at leading arts institutions on four continents, including the Smithsonian in Washington, the Venice and Sydney Biennale, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 2006.

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

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The six lectures in this series are now available to stream. You can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking the "Watch Now" button in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page. 

Lecture 1: Traditional Knowledge: Art is Spirit, Spirit is Art
The passing down and embodiment of traditional knowledge and Indigenous visual knowledge forms the basis of life among Indigenous communities. In this lecture, we bring to the forefront how contemporary Indigenous artists are flipping the script by embracing and drawing upon traditional knowledge as a way of seeing, living, and creating outside the Western perspective.

Lecture 2: Inuit Art: Resourcefulness and Innovation
For thousands of years Inuit and their ancestors made their own clothes, built their houses, hunted, and raised families. In this lecture, we examine Inuit art through the lens of societal values and language, exploring how Inuit resourcefulness has influenced the modern world in architecture, fashion and technology, as well as the way we view the land in a rapidly changing climate.  

Lecture 3: The Entangled Gaze: How Indigenous Artists Viewed Colonial Settlers
In this lecture we explore the complex history of contact in different regions of Canada and the contiguous USA through the lens of Indigenous artists who were creating at this time. By reversing the gaze of the European and Euro/American/Canadian artists, this lecture answers the question of how Indigenous artists viewed, and were able to capture, the European other.

Lecture 4: Struggle, Resilience, Beauty: The Art of Iljuwas Bill Reid (1920-1998)
Iljuwas Bill Reid (1920–1998) was a gifted artist who catalyzed the reclamation of Haida culture and went on to become one of the most significant Northwest Coast artists of the 20th Century. During his fifty-year career, he prolifically created art while also advocating for the inherent rights of the Haida people in defending their land and way of life—leaving behind a legacy of struggle, collective resilience and powerful beauty making.
Lecture 5: Reversing the Gaze: Re-enactment in Indigenous Art
Have you ever wished to be somewhere or someone else? In this lecture we explore the tradition of re-enactment—the interpretation, commemoration and renegotiation of moments of the past—and how Indigenous artists use it to take control of narratives and dismantle stereotypes, creating deeply empowering works of imagination.

Lecture 6: From the Arctic to the Amazon: Indigenous Art in a Global Perspective
At opposite ends of the earth, the Arctic and Amazon regions are inhabited by Indigenous peoples who have successfully survived intense climates. This lecture draws a sharper focus on how much Indigenous communities from diverse geographic locations have in common when they come into contact with each other. While each region shares features of colonial exploitation, through art they have also created a common space of contemplation and knowledge generation.

*Key image: Captain Gold, Haida Gwaii Knowledge Exchange Workshop. February 8-9, 2019. Haida Gwaii Museum.
*Second image: Square bag with short rectangular flap decorated on one side with quillwork in a geometric design with human figures and edged with metal tubes (detail), Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Photograph by Dr. Gerald McMaster. Visual overlay design by Mariah Meawasige.

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