Works of art from 50 Indigenous women artists are being displayed on 167 billboards across Canada to celebrate the power, wisdom and visibility of native female Canadians.
The project, entitled Resilience, is putting the work of 50 Indigenous women artists on billboards from coast to coast.
The billboard campaign, launched by The Resilience Project, includes photographs, paintings, and multimedia pieces. It was produced by the Winnipeg centre Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools.
The works reflect a wide range of styles and materials, from photography to digital printing to acrylic painting, showcasing the diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit artwork.
Beginning June 1 and running until Aug. 1, the Resilience exhibition features artwork from 50 Indigenous female artists displayed on 174 commercial billboards across Canada.
The Resilience Project say: “In inner cities and on highways, sites from which too many women have disappeared, the presence of Indigenous women is made highly visible, individualised (beyond statistics), celebrated.”
Racism and exclusion have long been entwined in the historical development of Canada. Within Indigenous populations across the country, the long-term effects of racist and genocidal strategies include high rates of suicide, alcohol and drug addictions, the horrific atrocities of residential schools, mental disorders, poverty, contaminated land and water, internalised violence and imprisonment.
The Resilience Project adds: “As we look beyond Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations of 2017, this project is pivotal at this moment in this country’s history.
“For far too long, Indigenous women have been misunderstood (their powerful status misinterpreted to conform to early Settler gender models), disenfranchised (Indigenous women, as well as men, did not have the right to vote federally until 1960), rendered invisible (Indigenous women lost their status and rights when they married outside of their communities until 1985) and, in horrifying numbers, murdered (Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women estimates there could be as many as 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women in this country). Furthermore, the experiences of Indigenous women in urban centres have largely been misrepresented or entirely ignored.
“This project is a physicalised reminder of buried histories and diverse contemporary perspectives. Indigenous women artists present their ideas, their visions, themselves.”
The project, which began last month and runs until 1 August, features work from artists including Lita Fontaine, a Dakota-Anishinaabe Métis artist, whose billboard displays a photograph she took of a 2016 pipeline protest rally in The Forks, Winnipeg. The long banner carried by protest marchers reads “Water is sacred,” which is also the title and focus of Fontaine’s photograph.
Cree and Ojibway artist KC Adams uses two images in her Perception photography series to contrast societal labels with ones Indigenous women give themselves.
A black-and-white image shows an Indigenous woman and asks whether she is a victim. Another shows the same woman, with a big smile, describing her as a wife, researcher, homeowner and “softball player with a wicked arm”.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea