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 / past / 2012-2013 / DECOLONIZE ME


January 9 - 16 March, 2013

Artists: Sonny Assu (Laich-kwil-tach [Kwakwaka'wakw] | Vancouver), Jordan Bennett (Mi'kmaq | Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland), Cheryl L'Hirondelle (Métis / Cree | Toronto), Nigit'stil Norbert (Gwich'in | Yellowknife), Barry Pottle (Inuit | Nunatsiavut, Labrador), and Bear Witness (Cayuga | Ottawa)

Guest Curator: Heather Igloliorte

Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Curatorial Talk at 6:00 pm

For more information on our public programming click:

The exhibition and its publication are produced and circulated by the Ottawa Art Gallery with funds from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Art Council and the Royal Bank of Canada.

Decolonize Me features six contemporary Aboriginal artists whose works challenge, interrogate and reveal Canada’s long history of colonization in daring and innovative ways. Deliberately riffing on the title of Morgan Spurlock’s film, the pop-cultural phenomenon Super Size Me (2004), the exhibition’s title emphasizes the importance of recognizing the role of the individual within larger discussions of shared colonial histories and present-day cultural politics. In the context of the recent efforts of many Indigenous communities to assert their sovereignty and right to self-determination, the artists in this exhibition explore the issues and outcomes of both colonization and decolonization while exposing how these processes have impacted Aboriginal and settler Canadian identity, both individual and collective.

Press Release

Barry Pottle is an emerging Inuk artist from Nunatsiavut in Labrador (Rigolet), now living in Ottawa, ON, who has worked in, and with, the Ontario Aboriginal arts community for many years. Always interested in photography, Pottle recently took up this medium as a way of exploring the world around him. Living in Ottawa, which has the largest urban population of Inuit outside the North, he captures the uniqueness of this community through the camera’s lens. He believes that the concept of Urban Inuit is relatively new and for the most part unexplored. As Inuit strive to bring attention to their contemporary issues, urban realities, culture, traditions, practices and general awareness, Pottle uses the camera as his voice. He is now taking his work to the next level, moving beyond photo-journalism to explore artistic photographic work, through object studies, portraiture, and abstraction. In 1997, he graduated from Carleton University with a BA in Aboriginal Studies; from 1997 to 1998 he was an intern with the Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices at the Canadian Museum of Civilization; and from 1998 to 2002 he worked as Curatorial Assistant for the Inuit Art Centre, Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada, where he helped plan, develop and install Inuit Art exhibitions for local and touring venues.  His photos have been published in Makivik Magazine, Inuktitut Magazine, and Inuit Art Quarterly, and he has also contributed images to a number of local community initiatives and events.

Bear Witness (Cayuga) is an Ottawa-based media artist who has been producing short experimental videos for over eight years. He explores stereotypical representations of Indigenous peoples in North American media and popular culture and re-edits them into new narratives representing his experiences as an urban Aboriginal artist. In 2008, his video BrokeDickDog was included in the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography exhibition Steeling the Gaze: Portraits of Aboriginal Artists hosted by the National Gallery of Canada. Witness also exhibited two videos as part of Drive By: A Road Trip with artist Jeff Thomas at the University of Toronto Art Centre. Witness’ video The Story of Apinachie and her Redheaded Wrestler was selected for the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival as part of the Culture Shock program. In 2009, he was awarded the Aboriginal International Residency Exchange in Australia by the Canada Council for the Arts. During his residency at Parramatta Artists’ Studios he had a solo exhibition as part of the 2010 Sydney Festival titled, The Only Good NDN. In 2010, Witness collaborated with the National Film Board on a video project to remix films from the NFB archive. Most recently, he exhibited a new video installation, In the Cut: A Video Mix-Tape, at the Urban Shaman Gallery. Witness also produces live audio-visual performances and co-founded A Tribe Called Red, a native DJ collective who produce music internationally known as Pow Wow-step and hosts a monthly event called Electric Pow Wow.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Métis/Cree) is an Alberta-born mixed-blood multi/interdisciplinary artist, singer, songwriter and curator. Her creative practice is an investigation of the junction of a Cree worldview (nêhiyawin) in contemporary time and space. L’Hirondelle’s performance work is featured in Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women (2001), written by the late Ahasiw Maskegon Iskwew, and edited by Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder. Her 2001 performative activity and corresponding website cistêmaw îyîniw ohci (for the tobacco being) are also discussed in Candice Hopkins’s essay “How to get Indians into an Art Gallery” (2006), published in Making a Noise: Aboriginal Perspectives on Art, Art History, Critical Writing and Community. In both 2005 and 2006, L’Hirondelle was the recipient of the imagineNATIVE New Media Award for her online projects treatycard, Horizon Zero 17:TELL and wêpinâsowina. Her 2008/09 interdisciplinary project nikamon ohci askiy (songs because of the land) was recognized as an Official Honoree of the 13th Annual Webby Awards in the NetArt category. L’Hirondelle’s musical efforts have also garnered her critical acclaim with two Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in 2006 and 2007, and a nomination for a KM Hunter Music Award in 2011.

Jordan Bennett (Mi’kmaq) was born in 1986 in Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland, and currently lives in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. He is a multidisciplinary visual artist who works in sculpture, digital media, text-based media, installation, painting, performance, and various other techniques, pushing boundaries and playing with ideas of re-appropriation, reclamation, participation, and the artifact. In 2008, Bennett received his BFA from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Corner Brook, NL. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 Emerging Artist of the Year from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, and received multiple grants from the NLAC and Canada Council for the Arts. Included in group exhibitions primarily in Canada, Bennett's work was also in Contrary Projects in Venice: An Aboriginal Art Intervention at the Venice Biennale, (2011), and current exhibition, Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, Part 3 – Contemporary Native American, First Nations and Inuit Art from the Northeast and Southeast, at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, which will travel across the United States and into Canada. In June 2012, Bennett had his first solo exhibition at Alternator Gallery, Kelowna, British Colombia, followed up by another at the Urban Shaman Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Nigit'stil Norbert (Gwich’in) is a photo-based artist originally from Yellowknife, North-West-Territories, now living out of Toronto, Ontario. Her most recent explorations have involved stop-motion photography, unique beaded photographs, and installation-based works. Norbert's art practice focuses on the historical and contemporary representation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Norbert is interested in making new traditions, where the old meets the new and contemporary. Along with her extensive research regimen her art explores ideas of representation and misrepresentation, the role of the museum in the Aboriginal art scene, and stereotypes. By employing such practices she leads her viewer to fresh and new insights into the world of the young contemporary Aboriginal art scene that is exploding across the country. Within her art she likes to speak simply but with honesty and without fear. In 2012, she received her BFA in Photography at the Ontario College of Art & Design University, Toronto, Ontario. In 2011, her work was displayed at the Ottawa Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario) the Museum of Contemporary Native Art (Sante Fe, New Mexico) and Mississauga Living Arts Centre (Mississauga, Ontario) amongst others. She will exhibit in a group exhibition at the Robert Kananaj Gallery, Toronto in 2012.

Born in 1975, Sonny Assu (Laich-kwil-tach Kwakwak’wakw) is Liǥwildaʼxw of the We Wai Kai First Nation (Cape Mudge). He currently lives and works in Montreal.  An interdisciplinary artist, Assu merges Northwest Coast iconography with the aesthetics of popular culture to challenge the social and historical values placed upon both. An exploration of his mixed ancestry, his work appropriates or transforms items of consumer and popular culture to trace the lineage of his own personal life. Interested in ideas around Indigenous issues and rights, branding and new technologies, he works across many boundaries and disciplines and in doing so, reveals a ravishing oeuvre that speaks to many. Regarded as “vanguard” for his piece in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit How Soon Is Now?, Sonny Assu continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art by challenging perceptions of Indigenous art. He graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a BFA in Visual Art: Print Making, Painting and Digital Arts in 2002.  Assu’s work has been featured in several solo and group exhibits over the past ten years, notably Don’t Stop Me Now! and Comic Relief at the National Gallery of Canada, Beat Nation and How Soon is Now? at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Changing Hands: Art With Reservation Part 2 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. His work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and in various other public and private collections across Canada and the United States.