“Lack of…” by Erika Iserhoff from Indian Giver: Truth Telling and Narratives of Representation Arts Exhibition | Image Source: Sage Paul
In October 2016, The Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC) welcomed community members to OCAD University for a forum and discussion in downtown Toronto. The event was titled, Re: This Land Ontario, and gathered people from diverse backgrounds to gather information and insight into the current climate of Indigenous arts within the region. The ACC is a national arts service organization that supports, promotes and advocates on behalf of Indigenous curators, critics, artists and representatives of arts and cultural organizations within Canada.
Members of the local Indigenous arts community gathered on a chilly fall afternoon and listened to guest speakers Sage Paul and Susan Blight discuss their respected works, the Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator and the Ogimaa Mikana Project. Both Sage and Susan are distinguished Indigenous artists who continue to create critical and inspirational work in their respected fields.
Dene designer and curator, Sage Paul spoke about her experiences growing up in Scarborough, Ontario as a young Indigenous person and the ways in which she accessed cultural resources in within the Greater Toronto Area. Now, Sage Paul is the co-founder of the Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator, and a curator with an interest in wearable arts, social impact, traditional arts and culture.
Susan Blight is an Ojibway artist, activist and educator from Couchiching First Nation who, along with academic Hayden King, co-founded the Ogimaa Mikana Project. The Project promotes and preserves Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibway language, for the cultural reimagining of public spaces. The Ogimaa Mikana Project has posted billboards and changed street signs in order to return original Indigenous place names to sites throughout southern Ontario.
Executive Director of the ACC, Clayton Windatt, facilitated a group discussion and recorded feedback from forum guests to help guide and direct the future work of the ACC. Topics discussed included a need to build awareness of Indigenous arts protocols and funding and re-securing the presentation of Planet Indigenous Arts and Cultural Festival at the Harbourfront Centre. Also discussed was Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration (AKA #Canada150), that is set to take place in 2017 with celebratory events happening throughout the county. In the midst of Canada 150, the ACC should be advocating for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Actions within Canadian arts and cultural institutions in order to strengthen the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Also mentioned was the need for Indigenous language immersion in urban settings as well as the repatriation of sacred items from the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum. Ryan Rice, who is the Program Chair of the Indigenous Visual Culture program at OCAD University suggested that a document be created that lists the challenges and solutions that were vocalized by guests at the forum.