Queer Art Festival's Indigenous exhibit 'UnSettled' aims to provoke, inspire

The exhibition features the works of 18 two-spirited artists — a term coined in the 1990s to replace derogatory language used to refer to LGBTQ people in the Indigenous community.

The exhibition, which features 18 two-spirited artists, explores themes of sexuality and colonialism

Works by Cree painter George Littlechild will be featured in the exhibition. (Courtesy of George Littlechild)

The Vancouver Queer Arts Festival kicks off this weekend, featuring an exhibit titled "UnSettled," in honour of Canada 150.

It features the works of 18 two-spirited artists — a term coined in the 1990s to replace derogatory language used to refer to LGBTQ people in the Indigenous community.

Visual artist curator Adrian Stimson, a member of the Siksika Nation who himself identifies as two-spirited, said the exhibit comes at a time when First Nation artists are claiming space within artistic communities.

"If you take a look back at the history of two-spirited artists, for the most part it's been ignored or suppressed or not very much in mainstream media," he said.

"Because of this absence we're now at this time where there's this incredible explosion of two-spirited people and artists in Canada and in the Americas. It's a good opportunity to ask ourselves — are we a movement? How are we developing?"

Stimson says the works — which range from traditional weaving to painted portraits and menstrual accessories — were curated in the hopes of provoking conversations.

"Some work references residential schools and the trauma that that has caused," he said.

"Even Indigenous sexuality has been affected. Because of colonialism, I think a lot of people were made to feel ashamed of themselves and their bodies, so there are some works in there that are a little bit more revealing," he said.

"Some might find it provocative, but isn't that what art's all about?"

With files from On The Coast