PEI

Art exhibit in Georgetown is a 'call to action' on Indigenous issues

Settle Down, Settlers!, opening the day before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, addresses what it means to be Indigenous in this country and encourages everyone to make changes toward decolonization.

Settle Down, Settlers! by P.E.I. Inuk artist Julie Bull opens Wednesday

A preview of Inuk artist Julie Bull's visual art exhibition Settle Down, Settlers!

12 months ago
Duration 2:52
Julie Bull speaks from the heart and hopes their exhibit gives people a chance to reflect, and then take action to make change toward truth and reconciliation.

P.E.I.'s Julie Bull is known as a poet, but their first foray into visual art will soon be on display in a new exhibit at the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown.

Settle Down, Settlers! opens the day before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and it addresses what it means to be Indigenous in this country and encourages everyone to make changes toward decolonization.

"My life and my work is a way to help dismantle these ways in which we continually perpetuate colonial action," said Bull, who is Inuk from NunatuKavut in Labrador. 

Hundreds of pieces of art just poured out of me in a way that I never knew was possible before.— Artist Julie Bull 

Bull created the art while processing the news of hundreds of potential burial sites of children discovered on former residential school grounds in Canada. 

"I tried to write, which is usually where I go for emotional or therapeutic release. And I couldn't write," Bull told host Matt Rainnie on Mainstreet P.E.I. 

Poet and artist Julie Bull says creating the art was a healing process. 'A part of that is my healing around gender identity and being open and accepting of that in myself and sharing it with other people.' (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Instead, Bull sat down with a canvas and started melting crayons onto it. 

"Hundreds of pieces of art just poured out of me in a way that I never knew was possible before," said Bull, who is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them. 

"I was really creating it for me and for my own healing, and as a way to get out these very deeply complex emotions around grief, and loss and how we can move forward together."

One of Julie Bull's pieces that will be part of the exhibit Settle Down, Settlers! Bull says their discovery that they could create visual art was a reminder that we don't always learn everything when we're young. 'I showed myself that there's still way more that I can do that I don't even know yet.' (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The exhibit showcases about 70 of Bull's mixed-media pieces, including paintings and collages. 

During the gallery opening Wednesday night, there will also be a live performance from Bull and local actors, as well as special guests including P.E.I. Senator Brian Francis. 

Bull said the exhibit title, Settle Down, Settlers!, came from their feelings around a lack of action on decolonization from well-intentioned people. 

"Everybody stop with the guilt, stop with the fragility, stop with the tears. Just settle down," said Bull. 

Colonialism isn't 'ancient history'

They hope the exhibit gives people a chance to reflect, and then take action to make change toward truth and reconciliation. 

"Often we think that we're in 2021, so this is an ancient history kind of a situation, and it isn't. It's ongoing. It's so pervasive that most of us don't even realize the ways in which we ourselves are colonized," said Bull. 

"We need to keep finding ways to have action to restore relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people."

One of Bull's pieces in the new exhibit Settle Down, Settlers! at the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

As a first-time visual artist, Bull said the idea of showing their work to the public is "terrifying.

"It's very outside my comfort zone, but I know that that is absolutely where the magic happens. Every time I do things that make me feel nervous, or give me the butterflies, are the times that it's been most transformational for me as a human."

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I. and Jane Robertson

now