Montreal

Strength and sisterhood on display in Quebec Indigenous art Biennial

With the federal inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in mind, a Native art showcase opens today featuring female artists only, in an effort by organizers to refocus the conversation.

4th edition of Contemporary Native Art Biennial opens Thursday in Montreal and Sherbrooke

The Contemporary Native Art Biennial opens May 3 and runs until July 22. (submitted by Caroline Monet/BACA)

With the federal inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in mind, a Native art showcase opens today featuring female artists only, in an effort by organizers to refocus the conversation. 

The fourth edition of the Contemporary Native Art Biennial (BACA) is taking place at four locations in Montreal, as well as in Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships:

 The event runs until July 22.

'Hard labour of keeping our women safe'

For guest co-curators Becca Taylor and Niki Little, the biennial is an opportunity to showcase an Indigenous women's narrative of strength and sisterhood.

They said that while the government is now looking into the systemic mistreatment of Indigenous women, much of the work being done to protect them is happening at a grassroots level.

"In the communities we come from, we see women gathering and doing this kind of work: the hard labour of keeping our women safe," said Little, from Kistiganwacheeng, Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba.

Becca Taylor, left, and Niki Little are guest co-curators of the Contemporary Native Art Biennial. (Andrea Dyck A Marie Photography/BACA)
Forty artists are presenting pieces ranging from sculpture to performance, video and textile. Works are distributed through the four art spaces presenting BACA, in accordance with how they fit in the surrounding landscape.

For the Guild, a gallery on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal's Golden Square Mile, that meant bringing in pieces that relate to the surrounding commercial spaces — mainly high-end clothing stores.

"We address in many different ways how we fit ourselves with garments, or the way we mark our bodies, or the way our bodies are held within space," Taylor said.
Angela Hovak Johnston will be tattooing a woman in the traditional Inuit style at the BACA vernissage. (Submitted by Angela Hovak Johnston/BACA)

A vernissage at the Guild Thursday evening will feature Inuk artist Angela Hovak Johnston tattooing another Inuk woman in a traditional style.

Taylor calls her a "cultural carrier" who is working to revive the traditional Inuit custom.

The curators are bringing together artists from Canada, the U.S. and as far away as Guatemala to share perspectives.

These artists bring with them different levels of renown — some are well-established, while others are just starting their careers.

"Some championed artists have a lot of space right now," Taylor said.

By leveraging their standing to draw attention to emerging artists that will share gallery space with them, "it adds names to the list of women who work in contemporary art," Taylor added.

now