Sunday, June 21, 2009

National Aboriginal Day

TOTEM ROAD IMAGE IS by Arthur Renwick and is FROM:

Metis flag is from

So today, of course, in addition to being the summer solstice, is National Aboriginal Day, a day in which (imo) all non-Aboriginal Canadians should simultaneously hang their heads in shame, express their apologies for a 350-year holocaust, and think about ways to remedy this in the future.

Nowadays, of course, while, as John Ralston Saul and many others point out, the health, income, education and housing levels of native Canadians remains a black eye on our country, we have seen two generations emerge over the last several decades that has reclaimed a sense of pride in being native or first nations or Indian or whatever you wanna call it. These have included doctors, judges, politicians, school teachers, social workers, athletes, writers, filmmakers, parents, volunteers, community advocates, and so on.

Along with this has come a strong voice in visual art. Take for example my facebook friend Arthur Renwick, who is Haisla, and a fabulous artist. I've written about his work a few times in different places.

Here's what says about him:
"Arthur Renwick comes from two places in northern B.C. -- Kitamaat, the ancestral home of the Haisla people, and Kitimat, an Alcan company town, built in the fifties to house the aluminum smelter’s workers.

Now based out of Toronto, Arthur Renwick is an artist, musician and professor who teaches Fine Arts at the University of Guelph."

While I'm hesitant to say what his work "means", Renwick has worked mostly in photo, depicting issues relating to land claims, to modern perceptions of aboriginal people, and of the weird and sometimes fascinating appropriations of native culture onto the mainstream. The image "Totem Road" here is a good example.

His 2004 show "Delegates: Cheifs of Land and Sky" was a fabulous photo exhibit that toured the country to mostly positive reviews, and still remains one of the best small-gallery shows I've ever seen. The Globe and Mail critic, however, who lives in a pretty cosy, blueblood art world that doesn't exist in Winnipeg, wrote that although the work was "admittedly handsome, its theoretical base is just about the silliest thing I've ever seen" and that, "while distressing, certainly, (aboriginal land claims) hardly rank on most people's lists of social ills to be fretted over and redressed".

I was happy to slam him, in print, twice. I hope he read one of them, though I doubt it.

Anyway, happy National Aboriginal Day everyone. And, as Arthur Renwick says: "If you got land, thank an Indian."


D.Macri said...

Kitimaat is near where I lived in Terrace. I met people who worked at Alcan this winter.

D.Macri said...

It's also father's day?

c-apology said...

It is, so thank them as well.

And thanks for the land, and sorry we're such a-holes.