An exhibition of interdisciplinary artworks that express Indigenous wisdom through traditional and emerging media opened at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery on Oct. 20. We Carry Our Bundles Forward is curated by Kamala Todd, a Métis-Cree community planner and educator.
Todd was joined by her mother, filmmaker Loretta Todd, media artist Tracey Kim Bonneau (of the Syilx First Nation) and ethnobotanist T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss (who is Skwxwú7mesh, Sto:lo, Hawaiian and Swiss) for a public reception to launch the exhibition on Oct. 22.
More than 40 attendees, including contributing artists, gathered for an event that began with a song drummed and sung by Wyss and Bonneau.
Wyss’s song paid homage to Indigenous leaders like Skwxwú7mesh chief S7ápelek (Joe Mathias) who in 1906 led a delegation to London with plans to discuss land claims with King Edward VII. Upon arriving, however, S7ápelek discovered that the king was holidaying abroad.
“But our resilience is strong,” said Wyss. “Our leaders stayed. Those leaders were very clear that we’re never giving up our land. We can’t give away something that belongs to our future. I see the work that those leaders did as carrying it forward, and we’re still doing that today.”
The exhibition includes traditional fabric items like Skwxwú7mesh bundle, a weaving by Tsawaysia Spukwus Alice Guss, who has also made drums for the Vancouver Canucks and Whitecaps.
Senaqwila Wyss, an Indigenous Cultural Programmer at the Museum of North Vancouver, created a mixed-media display that depicts the intimate and symbiotic relationship between human beings and food-bearing plants (wanáx̱ws ta t’uyt s7eḵw’ítel, or Respecting our plant relatives).
“In my Cree and Métis teachings, bundles are medicines that we carry,” said Kamala Todd in a statement. Todd is a filmmaker as well as an adjunct professor with SFU’s Urban Studies Program and at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning.
“We also carry joy, pain, and the burdens and fears from our ancestors and all our relatives around us, including our animal relatives,” Todd continued. “In my teachings, we carry responsibilities to the land, ancestors, future generations, all our relations, but also to ourselves: to know our gifts, the medicines that we carry, to be proud of our gifts, to share our gifts, and to know that we have our own path and purpose.”
We Carry Our Bundles Forward includes augmented reality works by 13 artists who are part of the IM4 Lab, an organization founded by Loretta Todd that operates in partnership with Emily Carr University to foster Indigenous creativity in XD, or extended reality.
“The world of augmented reality and virtual reality is exciting,” Bonneau said. Bonneau is one of three media matriarchs who co-founded IM4 and provide instruction. “But AR and VR are expensive. And it’s primarily not accessible to Indigenous communities, schools, reserves and urban communities. Loretta had a vision to create a space where money wouldn’t be a barrier to access this incredible technology as a way to tell our stories and as a way to continue the transformation and building of our Indigenous knowledge.”
Using a mobile device, visitors can scan QR codes to experience digital media experiences. One of the contributors, Kai Todd-Darrell, was present at the opening reception. Todd-Darrell uses digital audiovisual tools to explore what it means to decolonize artificial intelligence. He also drums for a Vancouver-based experimental punk rock band.
“This place actually creates medicine,” said Loretta Todd. “Being in this space [the exhibition at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery] makes you privileged by people’s medicine. The artists are honouring you.”
We Carry Our Bundles Forward remains at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until Nov. 13.