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National Gallery of Canada opens largest-ever global survey of contemporary Indigenous art
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, Smoking Taj, 2009. Pen and acrylic on canvas, 99 × 69 cm. Must Art Gallery, New Delhi. Photo courtesy of NGC.

OTTAWA.- Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, the largest-ever global survey of contemporary Indigenous art, opened Friday at the National Gallery of Canada. On view until September 2, 2013, the exhibition features over 150 poetic, unexpected and challenging artworks by more than 80 artists from 16 countries and six continents. Sakahàn, meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples, is organized by the National Gallery of Canada, supported by the RBC Foundation, and sponsored by CN. In addition, Sakahàn partners. present exhibitions in spaces in the Ottawa-Gatineau region and across the country.

The artworks presented in Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art range from videos and installations to sculptures, drawings, prints, paintings, performance art, murals and new, site-specific projects created specifically for this exhibition. Employing distinct approaches that reflect their specific and unique places in the world, the artists create a rich and generative dialogue about what it means to be an Indigenous artist today. In an increasingly globalized world, this exchange of ideas and experiences has a profound effect on us all.

Among the many artists featured in the exhibition are such well-known names as Rebecca Belmore (Anishinaabe, lives in Vancouver, Canada), Brian Jungen (Dane-zaa, lives in Vancouver, Canada), Annie Pootoogook (Inuit, lives in Ottawa, Canada), and Tim Pitsiulak (Inuit, lives in Cape Dorset, NU, Canada), Jimmie Durham (Cherokee, lives in Rome, Italy, and Berlin, Germany), Marie Watt, (Seneca, lives in Portland, USA), Teresa Margolles (Mestiza, lives in Madrid, Spain, and Mexico City, Mexico), Michael Parekowhai (Maori, lives in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand), and Fiona Pardington (Maori and Scottish, lives in Waiheke Island, Aotearoa New Zealand). Also included are a number of artists who have not yet received widespread exposure in North America, such as Toru Kaizawa (Ainu, lives in Nibutani, Japan), Venkat Raman Shyam (Gond, lives in Bhopal, India), and Outi Pieski (Sámi, lives in Utsjoki, Finland).

Through their works, the artists engage with concepts of self-representation to question colonial narratives, present parallel histories, promote the value of the handmade, explore relationships between the spiritual, the uncanny and the everyday, and put forward highly personal responses to the impact of social and cultural trauma.

“Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art is perhaps our most ambitious exhibition to date. It demonstrates the importance we at the National Gallery of Canada place on the work of Indigenous artists, wherever it is made. You will find outstanding and innovative contributions to contemporary world culture here. We plan to make a quinquennial habit of bringing you the finest examples of new work by modern examplars of the world's ancient cultures, artists who are immeasurably enriching the visual arts with new ideas, new points of view and new beauty,” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

“As a longstanding partner of the National Gallery, RBC is proud to support their ongoing commitment to collecting and studying Indigenous art, and to providing Canadians the opportunity to enjoy these exceptional works through the Sakahàn exhibition,” said Shari Austin, vice-president of Corporate Citizenship for RBC and executive director of the RBC Foundation.

NGC visitors will be able to explore the exhibition throughout the Gallery’s building and grounds, including its Special Exhibitions Galleries; Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries; and Contemporary Galleries, as well as outside the building.

Sakahàn is co-curated by Greg Hill, the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art; Christine Lalonde, Associate Curator of Indigenous Art; and Candice Hopkins, Elizabeth Simonfay Guest Curator, with the support of an international team of curatorial advisors: Jolene Rickard, Yuh-Yao Wan, Irene Snarby, Arpana Caur, Lee-Ann Martin, Brenda Croft, Megan Tamati-Quennell, and Reiko Saito.

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