Home Arts & Culture Celebrating a half century of Onkwehón:we art

Celebrating a half century of Onkwehón:we art

The “Picturing Ourselves” exhibit will run until the end of June and features some of the most impressive Onkwehón:we artwork on Turtle Island. A book featuring photographs of the work will be released June 21. (Courtesy Indigenous Art Centre)


Stroll the gallery at 10 rue Wellington in Gatineau where Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada operates, and travel through a half century of some of the finest Onkwehón:we artists’ work.

The pieces included in “Sharing the Collection Part 1: Picturing Ourselves” come from the Indigenous Art Centre’s collection and includes artists from Dene, Anishinaabe, Maliseet, Kanienkehá:ka and many, many more artists.

The Eastern Door received a copy of The Indigenous Collection: Selected Works 1967-2017 that includes hundreds of pages of stunning artwork of all forms.

Among the paintings, photographs, sculptures and other work is Skawennati Fragnito’s digital print “Native Love” produced in 2012.

“It’s a wonderful book that shows the collection very well,” she said. “Obviously the collection is huge, I think there are 4,000 pieces in it, so they couldn’t show it all. I was thrilled to be selected to be in the book.”

Native Love, Skawennati

Martin Loft’s photograph of the late artist Joe David from Kanesatake is also featured. Loft spoke about his attending an Indigenous art photography conference in Hamilton, Ontario, while studying photography at Concordia University.

“Little did I know, but I was at the centre of a new movement in Indigenous art,” he said.

“We founded the first Indigenous photographer arts organization in the world. There was a great gallery, production facilities, studio, darkroom and infrastructure to circulate exhibitions throughout Canada and the US.”

Six of Loft’s pieces are in the Indigenous Arts Centre’s collection including “Joe – Mohawk,” which is in the book and show.

“The portrait in the show is also of an important Mohawk artist, Joe David of Kanesatake, who died tragically a few years ago,” said Loft.

Joe – Mohawk, Martin Akwiranoron Loft

Mi’kmaq curator Viviane Gray from Listuguj worked at the Indigenous Art Centre for 21 years and was part of the jury that selected the works, and wrote the essay “Persistence and Resistance, the Indigenous Art Collection” at the beginning of the book.

“We always talked about putting together a history or a publication that talked about the collection because it’s such an old and an important one,” said Gray.

The show and publication includes art from three time periods starting in 1967, and the work comes from across the Turtle Island.

Those wanting to check it out have until June 22 when the exhibit closes.

“It just shows the amazing range of art that is in the collection coming out of the artists here in Turtle Island,” said Fragnito. “It’s a great temporal range, it’s a great range of mediums, it’s a great range of artists, it’s a great range of regions being represented.”

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Daniel J. Rowe is an award-winning reporter and photographer originally from BC. In addition to journalism, he produces and edits a Shakespeare-inspired blog and podcast called the Bard Brawl. His writing has also appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Canadian Press, U.S. Lacrosse magazine and elsewhere. His facial hair rotates with the season, and he’s recently discovered the genius of wearing a cowboy hat. He wrote for The Eastern Door from 2011 to 2019.