North

Yellowknife artists explore Indigenous futures, with traditional materials

“The initiative was done so that people were able to kind of project their own cultures into the future instead of living up to the expectation that certain cultures just live in the past kind of thing,” says one of the collaborators.

Exhibit lets artists 'project their own cultures into the future'

Melaw Nakehk’o and Davis Heslep at the Rooted and Ascending exhibit at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

A group of artists in Yellowknife came together this summer to create a multimedia art piece that combines technology and moose skins.

Showcased at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre along with a mixed reality exhibit exploring Indigenous Futurism, the art piece uses a traditional medium with an innovative twist.

In the piece, 360-degree video footage of a hide tanning camp in Lutselk'e is projected on a dome made of 40 triangular moose hides. It took five hides from various communities in the N.W.T. to make the dome, which has since been packed up while organizers work on making it a traveling art piece.

Davis Heslep is the technical coordinator for Western Arctic Moving Pictures, and one of the collaborators on the art installation.

"In a way this is a non-traditional art piece, which is a contemporary vision on what we can do with northern materials in different mediums." Heslep said.

Creating the dome was a collaborative project between Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP) and Dene Nahjo, funded by the NWT Arts Council.

Tania Larsson, Melaw Nakehk'o, Casey Koyczan and Heslep are the artists who worked on the project.

Art show in Yellowknife explores Indigenous Futures

2 months ago
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Stunning footage from a moosehide tanning camp in Łutselk’e looked even more stunning when projected on a moosehide dome. It was part of an Indigenous Futures art exhibit in Yellowknife this August. "It's really challenging us further in our imagination, which I think is a really important thing when we're talking about being self-determining as Indigenous people," said curator Melaw Nakehk'o. 3:58

Nakehk'o said their combined skill sets and the experience they have with different mediums worked well together, and it shows in the piece.

"Being able to draw from our strengths and bring things together and be able to create something that you're able to immerse yourself in and utilizing moose hides in this way, it's such a cool project," she said.

"We know that we used to use moose hides to build boats and our drums and our clothing. And it's really interesting to be able to use that material that we've been producing for thousands of years in this new way of storytelling."

Indigenous futurism art

Nakehk'o is also the curator of the museum's futurism exhibit called Rooted and Ascending that promotes and encourages Indigenous futurism art.

"Indigenous futurism is like creating artwork like either fashion, comic books, graphic design [or] video games with the intent of projecting what culture or what people would look like in the future based on basically sci-fi," said Heslep.

He said that it's a social and cultural movement that celebrates the power of imagination, technology and self-determination.

"It's really challenging us further in our imagination, which I think is a really important thing when we're talking about being self-determined as Indigenous people in our communities." Nakehk'o added.

Some artwork by Cody Fennel currently on display at the Rooted and Ascending exhibit at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

It's also a movement that WAMP and Dene Nahjo have been working to promote and encourage with virtual symposiums and exhibits like these.

"This initiative was done so that people were able to kind of project their own cultures into the future instead of living up to the expectation that certain cultures just live in the past kind of thing," Haslep said.

The Indigenous Futures Exhibit includes works from Kablusiak, Margaret Nazon, Riel Stevenson Burke, Robyn McLeod, Siku Allooloo, Casey Koyczan and Cody Fennel. 

It will be on display at the museum until the end of November.

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