MAY 13 – JUNE 25, 2016
Interpretive Essay By Gabrielle Legault
She weaves, she braids, she knits
Kokums, great-grandmothers, mothers, aunties, women of the earth.
They bring The Land forth through their roots.
The gallery space transports us to northern Alberta, Home Land to artist Amy Malbeuf. A strip of land from her family farm lies raw, reminiscent of that which has been and continues to be dispossessed. Her work is deeply personal (the braids a literal extension of the artist), but it is also somehow familiar.
The work invites us to contemplate the sacredness of the body. Laced hair alludes to the old ways of the women that went before us, weaved through the fibers of our beings. A reminder of the everyday presence of our relations, our ancestors, shrouded in favor of modern-day individualism.
The work is situated within a movement that seeks to honour and give voice to Indigenous women who have been silenced. As a Métis woman, Malbeuf is conscious of the ways in which the bodies, names, stories, and work of indigenous women have been excluded within Métis histories. Contextualized within Malbeuf’s body of work as a performance artist, bead-worker and caribou-hair tufter, apihkêw exists along a continuum of creative endeavours that highlight often-unrecognized women’s craftwork meanwhile re-imagining Indigenous contemporary art.
For Indigenous women, ignoring the women that came before us is futile, as their pain and trauma is inherited through generations. The body is a vessel of not only unresolved despair, but also enduring strength. The gallery environment is haunting, charged with a sense of grief that may cause a visceral reaction for some people. The aesthetic of the work is stark, a reminder of all that has been lost in a relentless gale of colonization: culture, identity, spirituality, language and Land.
The interrelatedness of all living beings is a central component of apihkêw, weaved together through connections that transcend time and space. Illuminating the ways in which experiences are relived throughout generational lifetimes, the work stands as a tactile reminder of the stillness and flux of the passing of time. Drawing on concepts described by indigenous scholar Leroy Little Bear, temporality is understood as cyclical and non-linear. Place is thought together with time and space.
Though subtle, the collection in its entirety is powerful, chilling, and provocative. An atmosphere of mourning culminates with an intensity that is felt through the cutting of braids. Though in other contexts, it may be an icon of residential school trauma and indigenous erasure, here expresses something complex. The future is re-imagined, unshackled from solemnity. Not an absolving of the women and their resilience that has been passed through the body along bloodlines, but a recognition that strength lies in surrendering to oneself. Though somber, the work whispers beyond the bleakness, of persistence through adversity, of a life after loss, of Ahkemeyimowak.
Interested in exhibiting in the Alternator’s Main Gallery? Check out the Submission Guidelines.