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Role Of Indigenous Art


SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1982      v12 n06 p83  
'Sedna and Shaman' by Abraham Anghik
"Sedna and Shaman" by Abraham Anghik of the North West Territories.
'The Moment of Conjunction' by Domingo Cisneros
"The Moment of Conjunction," by Domingo Cisneros from Mexico, living in Quebec.

Thousands of visitors and participants alike from all over the world saw and felt the awesome power of expression by Indigenous people in their dances, songs, paintings and sculptures at the World Assembly of First Nations.

With sudden clarity and intensity, the spectator saw the deep meanings behind the visual and performing arts of Indigenous peoples.

There wasn't any need for an anthropological break-down of what was going on. Those who witnessed the artistic events, saw the survival and indeed, the renewed strength of indigenous cultures, in spite of consistent attempts over the years by colonial powers to destroy them.

The Mohawk Indian lead singer of a traditional dance group from the Akwasasne reserve reflecting the mood of fellow performers, said how he was moved to see "the many different nations of Native peoples coming together to demonstrate and share with depth their culture to the people."

What was shared during WAFN was obviously only a small portion of the culture and art of each of the approximately 200 Indigenous artists from around the world.

The Mohawk group demonstrated only about 20 percent of their "earth songs" which are used by the people for sharing experiences and to remember and acknowledge all forms of life.

Role Of Indigenous Art


SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1982      v12 n06 p84  
'Trapper with Guncase' by Leonard Paul
"Trapper with Guncase" by Leonard Paul of Nova Scotia.
Untitled by Edward Poitras
untitled by Edward Poitras, Saskatchewan

Pueblo performers from New Mexico brought with them only a small selection of a vast repertoire of ceremonial songs and dances done on a seasonal basis.

Indigenous culture not only survived colonialism but evolved even during those times. In music, dance and songs the Bolivians displayed with great intensity their daily struggle to survive repressive colonial powers.

These groups and the many other indigenous performers demonstrated at WAFN that they are beyond description and classification from Western Society's point of view in the performing arts. They've transcended ethnic and racial slots and are expressing a kind of art and spirituality that is universal.

Pulling Free "Indian Art"

A new generation of artists of Indian ancestry held, for the first time, an exhibition of unusually fine contemporary/traditional art during WAFN at the Norman McKenzie Art Gallery and the Assiniboia Art Gallery in Regina.

Called "New Work by a New Generation", the McKenzie exhibition presented a new kind of artist of Native ancestry who is pulling free of the dictates of a commercialized Western Society and now doing what the artist wants to do.

Fifteen artists from Canada and the U.S.A. showed a common personal interest in liberation, themselves from the Market place and the museums. With exceptional creative qualities these artists are mixing modern techniques with a traditional view of the world.

Role Of Indigenous Art


SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1982      v12 n06 p85  
Artist Edward Poitras, a Metis from Saskatchewan, and a contributor to the exhibition, said the usual performing arts of Indigenous "are all tied together to make a culture exist".

"Paintings, sculptures, dance and songs serve as visual proof of a culture in development." The visual arts created by present-day artists of Indian ancestry will also be a testament to future generations "that we existed" and preserved a "true expression of our culture."

Ruth Cuthand, a Fine Arts student at the U. of S., Saskatoon, who contributed works to the Assiniboia show, expressed a common view among New Generation artists. "How white people view 'Indian Art' is different from how we view it ourselves."

She pointed out that culture is always changing, including Indian culture. "The artist's role is to reflect culture as it is now."

Cuthand believes the new generation movement is growing, and as Indians achieve nationhood, art and culture will flourish as never before.

She said Indian people are already entering a state of rebirth in art and culture. She hopes the time will soon come when Indians will be accepted as artists and "not seen as a novelty or ethnic."

"I hope I've seen the last of 'the end of the trail'."


'Cahokia II' by Bob Boyer
"Cahokia II" by Bob Boyer of Saskatchewan.
Serigraph: Jackson Beardy
Serigraph: Jackson Beardy