Saskatchewan is known to host a multitude of cultural backgrounds, ranging from Ukraine to East India, but three cultural backgrounds central to Saskatchewan were showcased on Friday, Sept. 21. The University of Regina was proud to host the art reception for the exhibit Métissage that has been going on since Sept. 4 and will continue until Oct. 26. The exhibition showcases artists of First Nations, Métis and Fransaskois backgrounds.
When Katherine Boyer, curator of the project, was first approached by Frédéric Dupré, the main goal was to bridge together the different cultures, and the exhibit was developed from there. She is excited that “three groups in Saskatchewan [are] finally coming together in a visually artistic manner.”
The purpose of the exhibit was to “create dialogue between the founding people of this land.” As people filed in, attendants could see that while unity was meant to be emphasized, the diversity of guests arriving proved that by reaching out to select groups of individuals, many interested folks would follow.
Each of the four locations had a distinctive theme, and at the Fifth Parallel, the art done by Éveline Boudreau had the theme of community. The strength of all communities and maintaining the language as well as culture of the people was emphasized in Boudreau’s mash-up of photographs and French script along with a video playing to greet guests upon entrance.
Leading the guests to every location was a fiddler, making the trek to the University Club an entertaining excursion. Once arriving at the decorated club, viewers could see the paintings of the artists, Anne Brochu-Lambert, Liza Gareau Tosh, Roger Jerome, Melanie Monique Rose, Michel Boutin, Wilf Perreault, and David Garneau. The theme of land was selected for this location, showing the resilience and strength of Saskatchewan’s people. The exquisite works of all the artists above, but especially that of David Garneau and Melanie Monique Rose, made this obvious.
Rose has been formally trained as a fibre artist, and this was showcased by her painting with a felt base that took meticulous effort and long hours to complete. In her work “Olive Rose,” she combined her heritage of Ukraine folk art and Métis floral beadwork to create an organic piece that emphasized the beauty of our homeland. On her description page, she commented about her interest in “the secret language of micro and macro cosmos”, or to put it more poetically, “how the lines on the palm of my hand can reflect the look of snow-melt flowing in the crevices of the mountains”.
“[The show] brings a sense of pride." – Melanie Monique Rose
Garneau had a different approach to the land theme, but none less intriguing than the others. He admitted his interest in the property rights before the European Grid System was placed in Saskatchewan. In two of his paintings, he showcased this interest by painting abstract landscapes of how the province looked before the system. As he shows in his work, the First Nations all lived near access to water and neighbours, something that changed after the Europeans settled.
Both artists agreed on the positive impact the show places on all three cultures. Rose suggested it “brings a sense of pride” and Garneau commented on the coming together of the community and the connection the exhibit offers to the cultures.
As the night continued, the guests migrated to the Institut Français where the art from Zoé Fortier, Joe Fafard, Allen Sapp, David Garneau, Scott C. Stonechild, Sarain Stump, and Sherry Farrell Racette were displayed. ‘People’ was the theme for this section, mainly as a reminder of the importance of ancestry and what was before us.
By this time, the guests were starting to get a feel for the exhibits and commented on “the pleasant atmosphere, good conversation, and appetizers most appealing in sight and taste.”
Another made the point that “artists have the tools to change the world. [They] open the space for people who want to share what’s going on in the community.”
The last exhibit station was located at the First Nations University Gallery with the theme of spirituality; it is “something shared by all, yet different”, said Katherine Boyer. “We share the spirit of our people and culture.”
The artists Sharon Pulvermacher, Bob Boyer, Michel Boutin, Allen Benjiman Clarke and Leah Dorion were highlighted. While the work was admiring as ever, Pulvermacher’s dedication to 13 women near the end was the part of the night that made the show truly meaningful. Women who had done so much for their community and culture, who built relationships between the Aboriginals and non-Aboriginials, worked with Métis dance organizations, helped the youth connect to their culture, and so much more, were honoured. With their blossoming “hot lady” pink roses, they stood on command with the applause and received gifts for their kind deeds that improved, and will continue to improve, our community. Darleen Chopin, Annette Labelle and Shirley Bonk are only a few of the many women who received this reward for their efforts and successes.
To conclude the enriching evening, a group of First Nations dancers called Wambdi Dance came out and did three select dances; a fitting way to close a memorable evening.
Yet the story isn’t exactly over with this show. As seen while at the exhibits, there are still old wounds the people carry in their hearts. They were treated wrongly, and there is nothing one can do to change the past. As a culture, as a community, we can come together in places like the Métissage exhibits to try and heal the wounds of our ancestors and move forward together as one voice. Hopefully, more shows like this one will pop up across the country and bring us closer together as a Canadian culture.