Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Aboriginal works of art from Canada

By Vico Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Gatherings: Aboriginal Art from the Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (原生與創生--加拿大原住民藝術家作品展) currently on show at the National Museum of History (國立歷史博物館) showcases three generations of Aboriginal art in Canada from the 1960s to the present with works raging from photography, sculpture, painting and video installation.

Organized by the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, the National Museum of History and Winnipeg Art Gallery, and sponsored by Taipei City's Council of Aboriginal Affairs, Gatherings is a small yet well presented show of vibrant Aboriginal art in a country that has systematically encouraged its indigenous talents since the 1970s.

All from central Canada, the artists in the exhibition have gained wide recognition both in the Aboriginal community and beyond. "The Indian Group of Seven," the first section of the show, includes professional artists such as Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig and Jackson Beardy, who, in the 1970s, started a new wave of cultural identification. Using Western techniques, they transcribed their tribal history, told by their elders, onto the canvas, in an effort to express their declining tribal culture.

"The New Generation," of works from the 1980s, is probably the most interesting section. Artists at this time, were mostly college trained and eager to experiment with styles and media. This characteristic prevented the art establishments from recognizing their work as Aboriginal art, even when they deal with issues of the blending of Aboriginal and mainstream Canadian cultures.

Buffalo Bone China, a video installation by Dana Claxton, is a touching work from the "Responding to the Times" section, of works from the 1990s. The slaughtering of buffaloes, held sacred by Lakota Aborigines, whose bones were made into fine china, is lamented in a sarcastic way. Arthur Renwick's My Grandfather's Shoes tries to warn viewers of the deteriorating natural environment of his hometown in British Columbia, with a haunting photography series.

Rosalie Favell, whose Untitled (My First Day of Assimilation) is on show, described the social milieu in her formative years.

"In the 1960s, when I went to kindergarten, I noticed that my skin was darker and naturally I gravitated toward children of Asian and Aboriginal origins. Even though I never went to boarding school, where Aboriginal kids were encouraged to behave like Canadians, the social atmosphere to repress my origin was there," Favell said at the opening of the exhibition on Friday.

It was not until the 1990s, when she made Untitled, that she society encouraged Aboriginal cultural expression and being an Aborigine even become "cool." Looking back on the situation in her childhood in a humorous light, Favell wrote "My First Day of Assimilation" over the snapshot her mother took of her on her first day at kindergarten.

"Gatherings: Aboriginal Art from the Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery" will run until Oct. 26 at National Museum of History, 49 Nanhai Rd, Taipei. (台北市南海路49).

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