Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery Honours the Connection between Indigenous Women and Water

Becoming Worthy by Marika Echachis Swan

In the heart of downtown, The Bill Reid Gallery showcases Indigenous Northwest Coast Art, the only public gallery in Canada to do so. Named after the talented and celebrated Haida artist Bill Reid, the Gallery does incredibly important work through its permanent collection of the Bill Reid SFU Art Collection and through special exhibitions that aim to educate about Indigenous art and culture.

Starting this spring, the Gallery will be presenting a group exhibition that focuses on water and the power and artistry of Indigenous women.

From April 10 to October 2, 2019, The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art (639 Hornby Street) presents qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: Womxn and Waterways, a timely exhibition that celebrates the many facets of water, as well as Indigenous women.

Cora Allen and Son by Kali Spitzer

It is guest curated by Tsēmā Igharas (Tahltan), Tiffany Creyke (Tahltan), Angela Marie Schenstead (nêhiyaw), and Denver Lynxleg (Anishinaabe) from the ReMatriate Collective, a group founded in 2014 whose mandate is to further positive self-depiction of Indigenous women through a variety of means, including exhibitions, workshops, and social media campaigns. Especially given previous and current contexts related to colonialism, violence, abuse, and silencing, the work that the Collective does is very much needed.

The exhibition title includes the expression qaʔ yəxw in order to underline the importance of water in Indigenous culture and, most particularly, among Indigenous women. Water has considerable symbolic value due to its fluidity, its healing properties, its connective ability, and its status as a revered and sometimes conflicted natural resource. It has been crucial to Indigenous survival, spiritual identity, as well as a starting point for discussion surrounding land use and consumption–all themes that will be touched upon in the exhibition.

Tsesqel Original by Carrielynn Victor

Nine Indigenous artists from the Northwest Coast and the interior of British Columbia are taking part in this exhibition, featuring a range of artistic practices and media, such as beading, printmaking, photography, and carving. The artists participating are Krystle Coughlin (Selkirk), Lindsay Katsitsakataste Delaronde (Mohawk), Alison Marks (Tlingit), Dionne Paul (Nuxalk/Sechelt), Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena), Marika Echachis Swan (Nuu-chah-nulth), Carrielynn Victor (Sto:lo), and Veronica Waechter (Gitxsan). Each of their artistic and cultural practices are unique and provocative.

Reconcile This by Krystle Coughlin

For example, Krystle Coughlin, an MFA candidate at Simon Fraser University, combines different materials as she constructs conceptual works that speak to concerns related to anti-colonialism, activism, and Indigenous feminism; Veronica Waechter (BFA, Emily Carr University of Art + Design) has worked under master carvers Gerry Sheena and Dempsey Bob; Marika Echachis Swan specializes in woodblock printmaking combined with carving, stencil, and photography in order to explore feminist Nuu-chah-nulth values.

Overall, it promises to be a rich display of Indigenous female artistry, as well as political and cultural engagement that aims to educate and connect with visitors.

Further information can be found on-line.


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