Powerful New Billboards Across Canada Celebrate Indigenous Female Artists

July 9, 2018
Dozens of artworks across the country are showcasing unsung talent and providing an important insight into the Indigenous experience.

Billboards across Canada have been plastered with color and drama this summer as a bold new project makes a powerful statement about the Indigenous experience.

Resilience, The National Billboard Exhibition Project is a monumental installation from Winnipeg-based MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art). Curated by Lee-Ann Martin, it was created as a response to a portion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action, a 2015 report outlining several recommendations to help healing with Canada’s Indigenous community.

The project features 50 artworks, some old and some new, created by 50 female Indigenous artists and installed on 81 billboards across Canada. Its creators describe it as “a physicalized reminder of buried histories and diverse contemporary perspectives. Indigenous women artists present their ideas, their visions, themselves.”

Resilience pushes the work of female Indigenous artists who are typically underrepresented in the art world. The billboards also serve as a reminder of place and people, acting as land acknowledgments and counter-monuments reinserting an Indigenous presence into the landscape.

Perhaps most importantly, though, many of the works challenge stereotypes imposed upon First Nation, Métis, and Inuit women. These artists reclaim their own representations and shine a light on their realities, pushing back on outsider narratives.

Canada has relied heavily upon Indigenous culture for its tourism and national identity. Walk into any souvenir shop and you’re bound to find foreign-made dreamcatchers, miniature totem poles, and inuksuit sculptures lining the shelves alongside bottles of maple syrup and moose mugs. You’ll also find sculptures and paintings of Indigenous women, illustrated as figments of the past or mythical fantasies.

Many of the installations found in Resilience work to dispel these stereotypes, framing Indigenous women and Indigenous art within a contemporary lens.

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