Arts·Video

Morgan Asoyuf places her ornate crowns and jewelry on Indigenous activists to honour and protect them

"Why are we not placing our most highly prized items on these people?"

'Why are we not placing our most highly prized items on these people?'

Morgan Asoyuf places her ornate crowns and jewelry on Indigenous activists to honour and protect them

4 months ago
4:16
In this video filmed at The Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, Morgan Asoyuf shares the ideas behind the series Royal Portrait. (Filmmaker: Daniel Lins da Silva) 4:16

Ts'msyen artist Morgan Asoyuf has always been interested in headpieces. "I love tiaras and crowns and aigrettes," says the multidisciplinary artist. "And the other thing I've always been in love with is frontlets, which is like the northwest coast version of the crown."

Asoyuf primarily works in goldsmithing, jewelry, gem-setting, and engraving. And for the series Royal Portrait, she used the "royal" association of jewelled headpieces to create photographic portraits that celebrate and promote the work of Indigenous activists. 

Work by Morgan Asoyuf. (CBC Arts)

The portraits were photographed by Patrick Shannon in 2019. For Asoyuf, it was a way of recognizing two-spirit people and Indigenous women's work toward movements such as land defence and MMIWG2S+, with activists wearing Asoyuf's headpieces and other artwork in the portraits.

"Why are we not placing our most highly prized items on these people?" asks Asoyuf. "They need the spiritual protection and the physical protection that these items help bring them."

A portrait from the series Royal Portrait, photographed by Patrick Shannon in 2019 and featuring Morgan Asoyuf's work. (Courtsey of Morgan Asoyuf/Or Gallery. Photos by Patrick Shannon.)

For Asoyuf, who is currently based in North Vancouver, it's also important for her to have her work used by activists on the frontlines. "I like to get artworks and jewelry out to the community members, especially Indigenous femmes and two-spirit people," says Asoyuf. "This is their voice, and we're here to support those voices."

Work by Morgan Asoyuf. (CBC Arts)

In addition to her artwork, Asoyuf is a writer and illustrator and is releasing her book Learning My Rights with Mousewoman next month.

See more of Asoyuf's work on her website.

Morgan Asoyuf working. (CBC Arts)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mercedes Grundy has been producing videos for CBC Arts and Exhibitionists since 2015. She is a unabashed Leonardo DiCaprio enthusiast with an educational background in photography, and produces film and theatre when not busy here at the CBC. And while her love for the arts does not discriminate, she openly acknowledges she is a horrible dancer.

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