Vibrant exhibition showcases Indigenous student art

May 5, 2023

Vibrant exhibition showcases Indigenous student art

Community spirit, mutual respect, and amazing artwork combined at NorQuest on April 21 during a unique artist reception. 

The event, entitled We Are Still Here, was an evening to showcase and share powerful artwork by NorQuest students and employees. Learners from NorQuest’s Indigenous Studies Program organized and led the event, guided by the Inuit concepts of tunnganarniq (fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming, and inclusive) and inuuqatigiitsiarniq (respecting others, relationships, and caring for people). 

Artwork on display ranged from ink drawings to colourful paintings to vibrant garments and immersive installations. All the art was inspired by life experiences and what students have learned in their studies. Through sharing of art and ideas, the event provided thought-provoking commentary on the Indigenous experience in Canada. 

Charlene Hansen is a first year Indigenous Studies student whose colourful ribbon skirt, entitled We Are Inuit, Not Arctic Flagpoles, was a visual statement on Canadian Arctic sovereignty, a concept that often came at the expense of displaced Inuit in the far north. 

“Starting in the 1950s, Inuit were displaced from northern Quebec and sent further north into what is now Nunavut,” Hansen explains. “They were given false promises of improved living conditions, but there was nothing but hardship.” 

For decades, Inuit families were divided, and they found it difficult to adjust to their new and harsh landscape. The impact of the relocations continues to this day, with gaps in cultural knowledge and intergenerational trauma. In keeping with the theme of the event, Hansen’s ribbon skirt is a reminder of both the injustice of relocation and Inuit perseverance. 

Likewise, Seana Frederick-Monias' large installation piece, An Indigi-healing Experience, was a comment on the experience of Indigenous people over the past century. The installation consisted of a multi-media space that was welcoming but also clearly expressed the painful history of colonialism. 

“I originally started with making a drum,” says Frederick-Monias, a second year Indigenous Studies learner. “But it expanded into an installation that represents many things – colonial history, what reconciliation means to me, and of course the healing experience.” 

"It’s been a really cathartic experience for me, and I've definitely been healing through it."