Indigenous

Royals view Mohawk artist's exhibit during Canada House visit

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex viewed an exhibition by Mohawk artist Skawennati while visiting Canada's high commissioner to the United Kingdom at Canada House in London on Tuesday.

Skawennati's art reimagines Indigenous peoples' past, present and future

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visit Canada House and its exhibition of Avatars Aliens Ancestors by Mohawk artist Skawennati in London, on Tuesday. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/The Associated Press)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex viewed an exhibition by Mohawk artist Skawennati while visiting Canada's high commissioner to the United Kingdom at Canada House in London on Tuesday.

Harry and Meghan's visit was to thank Canada for the hospitality they received during their stay over the holidays. 

"I feel very lucky that it's my show that's on right now when the royals are visiting," said Skawennati, who is based in Montreal and originally from Kahnawake, Que.

Her exhibition Avatars Aliens Ancestors (or Kaia'tonnihseronniá:nion Ratironhia'kehshón:'a Kahsotshera'okon'kénhen in Mohawk) has been running at the Canada House gallery since November.

Skawennati uses virtual environments and video games to reimagine Indigenous peoples' past and present, while looking ahead to the future. 

WATCH | Harry and Meghan visit Canada House:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to official royal duties Tuesday with a visit to Canada House in London. The couple met with Canada’s High Commissioner to the U.K. Janice Charette and her staff to thank them for their recent visit to Canada. 5:29

Skawennati is renowned for her machinimas and machinimagraphs (videos and photographs, respectively, made within virtual environments) such as her TimeTraveller™ portraits, which feature a range of Indigenous people from the 15th to 23rd centuries. 

Skawennati said that before travelling to London to set up the exhibition, she thought about the relationship through history between the Haudenosaunee — the confederacy which includes the Mohawk — and the Crown, and those who met with royalty to discuss treaties.

She thought about creating a new machinima in which her avatar, her virtual persona, met the Queen. 

She said she was "pretty surprised and pretty thrilled" to learn that Harry and Meghan would see her avatar as part of the exhibition. 

"What I would like is for them to remember our long relationship," said Skawennati "Not only have we survived colonization, attempts at assimilation and genocide, but that we are in the process of revitalizing our languages and our culture. We've remembered a lot, and I'd like them to think about using their influence to see what role they can play in that revitalization."

Skawennati uses virtual environments and video games to reimagine Indigenous peoples' past, present and future. (Zoe Tennant/CBC)

About the Author

Jessica Deer

Journalist

Jessica Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.