Exhibition features some of the best international Indigenous contemporary art

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Exhibition features some of the best international Indigenous contemporary art
Barry Ace, Nigik Makizinan – Otter Moccasins 2014, shoes, otter pelt, velvet fabric, electric components, synthetic porcupine bristles, deerhide, synthetic felt, copper beads, brass bells, National Gallery of Canada, Purchased 2017 (no. 47097), © Barry Ace, Photo: NGC.

OTTAWA.- Visitors to the large-scale exhibition Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel, on view at the National Gallery of Canada are being immersed in Indigenous contemporary art. The Gallery’s second exhibition in a recurring series featuring some of the best international Indigenous contemporary art brings together more than 100 works by some 70 artists identifying with approximately 40 Indigenous Nations, ethnicities, and tribal affiliations from 16 countries, including Canada. Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel is on view until April 5, 2020.

The exhibition begins in the Gallery’s main entrance with a monumental installation by internationally renowned Sámi artist and architect Joar Nango, from Sápmi (Northern Norway). Titled Sámi Architectural Library, 2019, this commissioned work created in situ draws on the artist’s concept of "Indigenuity” where Indigenous art practices unfold. Visitors are invited to leaf through the assemblage of books, ranging in subject matter from activism and colonialism to Indigenous architecture, collected by the artist over a decade.

Cree artist Joi T. Arcand’s installation welcomes visitors as they walk up the colonnade to the Great Hall. Neon green and hot pink words of hope and encouragement written in Plains Cree syllabics on the granite floor are a testament to the reclamation of languages after generations of settler oppression.

Tepkik, 2018-2019, an installation by artist Jordan Bennett (Mi'kmaq, from Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland and Labrador) is suspended in the Scotiabank Great Hall. The work is inspired by Mi’kmaq petroglyphs and the traditional colours of Mi’kmaq quillwork. The installation’s shape suggests the Milky Way, while the designs on the banners represent ancestral cosmology, referencing the sky and the water worlds.

Other works specifically created in situ for Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel include four large murals of traditional designs in the Gallery’s concourse, painted by artists Yvonne June Imam, Philomina (Tirkey) Imam, and Putli Ganju from the Tribal Women Artists Cooperative from Hazaribagh, North East India; a monumental woven installation titled AKA, 2019, made by Mata Aho Collective, which includes Māori women artists Bridget Reweti, Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, and Terri Te Tau, reaches towards the sky in the Gallery’s Rotunda; and a performance art piece titled Ikummagialiit [Those that need fire], 2019, by artists Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Inuit, based in Iqaluit, Nunavut), Jamie Griffiths, Cris Derksen and Christine Tootoo, which will be presented in the Gallery’s Auditorium on Saturday, November 16.

Entering the Special Exhibitions Galleries, visitors will encounter works and installations made in a variety of media, including beadwork, photography, print, sculpture, textile, and video. Among the artists whose works are on view are Brian Adams (Iñupiac, from Kivalina, Alaska, U.S.A.), Shuvinai Ashoona (Inuit, from Kinngait, Nunavut), Rebecca Belmore (Anishinaabe from Upsala, Ontario), Manuel Chavajay (Maya-Tz'utujil, from San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala), Thirza Cuthand (Cree, from Regina, Saskatchewan), Tracey Moffatt (from Brisbane, Australia), Zanele Muholi (Zulu from Umlazi, South Africa), Qudus Onikeku (Yorùbá from Lagos, Nigeria), Fredrik Prost (Sámi from Viikusjärvi, Sweden), Evgeniy Salinder (Nenets, from Salekhard, Siberia), Sarah Sense (Chitimacha and Choctaw from Sacramento, California, U.S.A.), Joseph Tisiga (Kaska Dene from Edmonton, Alberta), and Will Wilson (Diné, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.), among others.

Throughout the five-month duration of the exhibition, several works will be activated by their makers. Among them, Peter Morin (Tahltan and French Canadian, based in Toronto) will be in the exhibition space in January 2020 to perform land.breath: performing the collective history of walked paths on Tahltan territory. In this performance installation work, Morin uses maps, both geographical and architectural, as well as his body to imbue the exhibition with care, longing and connection to international Indigenous communities by engaging each work in the exhibition with his breath, movement and proximity.

The majority of the artists participating in the show are exhibiting at the National Gallery of Canada for the first time.

Curated by Rachelle Dickenson, Associate Curator; Greg A. Hill, Audain Senior Curator; and Christine Lalonde, Associate Curator, from the Indigenous art department of the National Gallery of Canada, with Consulting Curators, Candice Hopkins, Ariel Smith and Carla Taunton, as well as nationally and internationally based advisors, Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel is the culmination of years of preparation.

Key lenders to the exhibition include the National Museum of Japanese History, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Stark Museum of Art (Orange, Texas), and Global Affairs Canada. Nineteen works are drawn from the National Gallery of Canada’s collection, including three that have been recently acquired.

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