A person draped in an orangeish/reddish coat, with a long rectangular train, walks into a body of water. The sky is grey and overcast. In the foreground is a sandy beach covered in footsteps. A person draped in an orangeish/reddish cloak, with a long rectangular train, walks into a body of water. The sky is grey and overcast. In the foreground is a sandy beach covered in footsteps.

"Enawendewin is the word for relationships in the Anishinaabe language. As I began to think of the garden as a curatorial space, I wanted to explore the idea of relationships as defined through the Anishinaabe language as it relates to gardening and applied to our larger lives." — William Kingfisher

enawendewin/relationships

Curator’s Statement

This past year we’ve experienced so many changes. And we’ve heard so many stories of fires, droughts, and floods. Because of this, the project began to focus more on those things that are close, things that are here in my community, things that I know can make things better for us. For me, it began with the garden; in trying to connect to the land, its cycles, while trying to grow good food for us and for others.  Observing, I noticed the importance of relationships – that some like being with particular plants, others attract insects from a distance, and others like a more-watery place or more sun, where others don’t want much.

Enanwendewin is the word for relationships in the Anishinaabe language. As I began to think of the garden as a curatorial space, I wanted to explore the idea of relationships as defined through the Anishinaabe language as it relates to gardening and applied to our larger lives. As the project developed, we engaged more in what the implications were for growing food for ourselves, what it means to connect to a particular piece of land, and the importance of the garden as continuation of our Indigenous history, knowledge, and ways of understanding the world.

The artists in enawendewin/relationships draw from their traditional history and knowledge without forgetting about urgent contemporary issues. Using knowledge from our past has never been about going back to some static time, but is more about taking these ideas and concepts, holding them, working with them, relating to them as living things and knowing that through our using and applying this knowledge, we keep it alive.

All of the artists in enawendewin/relationships consider the idea of relationships in their own specific way. Each bring new ideas for discussion and consideration and each of their methods are varied.  The works by Carl Beam (1943-2005) and Mike MacDonald (1941-2006) remind us that the theme of connecting to ancestral knowledge to speak about contemporary issues has always been important to Indigenous artists. Lisa Myers’ project honours the work of Mike MacDonald through the remembering of his butterfly gardens as we consider his work and what it can teach us today. Anong Migwans Beam’s paintings and Melissa General’s video remind us of the memories held in the land and of its beauty and life. Ron Benner’s work also reminds us of the importance of memories but he also does not want to forget the colonial structure that has worked to extinguish Indigenous culture and knowledge.  Susan Blight’s project looks to plants as sources of knowledge and Jenn Cole’s video and performance work acknowledges the importance of movements and gatherings in the garden, as a way to acknowledge the land and to ensure the continuation of life.

Together enawendewin/relationships is about looking closely at the world while considering the meaning of relationships as a site of learning and creation to connect and discuss what kind of world we want for our collective futures.

About William Kingfisher

William Kingfisher is an independent arts curator, gardener, and member of The Gitigaan Project, an art organization that takes gardening and food as starting points for the exploration of decolonization methods, different ways of being in the world, understanding food production as politics, and to examine the interaction between local and global concerns. He is a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Rama. He has worked as a researcher/curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Museum of History) (1998 – 2004) and at Trent University, Indigenous Studies Department, Nozhem First People Performance Space as an associate producer (2013). He has an MA in Anthropology from Carleton University (2004) where he wrote a thesis on contemporary Indigenous art in Canada.

In partnership with the Art Gallery of Peterborough, one of his recent curatorial projects, Arthur Shilling: The Final Works, (2016 – 2018) toured to five galleries throughout Ontario. A selection of his recent projects include: Land Power: The Significance of Gardens in Anishinaabe Communities: Past and Present (2018 – 2020), Enawendewin: Relationships as Methodology in an Indigenous Garden (2018 – 2020); Gitigaan Glyphs: Contemporary Signs for an Anishinaabe Garden (2017); The Two Garden Project: Curve Lake and Peterborough: Strengthening Relationships, 2013, which included a garden, visual art and performance in Peterborough and the Curve Lake Reserve; jiigbiig: at the edge where the water and the land meet, 2012, a performance and visual art exhibition; and ayaandagon: outdoor art installations in an anishinaabe garden, 2010.

Participating artists 

Anong Migwans Beam, Carl Beam, Ron Benner, Susan Blight, Jenn Cole, Melissa General, Mike MacDonald, Lisa Myers

Sites

Adapted from the initial museum installation as a result of the pandemic lockdown, enawendewin/relationships takes place both online and across outdoor sites in Hamilton.

This webpage will introduce you to the artists and share some of their work online. Please continue to check in as it will be updated as the show goes on and more media becomes available.

We encourage you to also spend time outdoors with the works installed at the following locations:

Events

All events are free and open to the public.

September 18, 11:30am – 1pm: Public mural launch at McQuesten Urban Farm, 785 Britannia Ave, Hamilton, ON L8H 6P7.

September 23, 4:30pm + September 29, 1:00pm: Guided walking tours “Finding What Grows” with Lisa Myers at Gage Park, 1000 Main St E, Hamilton, ON L8M 1N2. Co-presented with McMaster School of the Arts. To access the audio walk, click here.

October 21, 6:00pm Online talk with Lisa Myers, “Collective Remembering Mike MacDonald’s Medicine and Butterfly Gardens: Hooker Distinguished Visiting Scholar Lecture by Lisa Myers”.

October 25, 7-9pm: Film screenings and online panel discussion co-presented with Hamilton Supercrawl.


Header image: Melissa General, Reclamation, 2014. Video still courtesy of Video Out.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Anong Migwans Beam

Anong Migwans Beam is an Ojibwe artist, curator and paint-maker living and working in her home community of M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Beam is the daughter of award-winning Indigenous artist Carl Beam and feminist artist Ann Elena Weatherby. She studied art at the School of the Museum of Fine Art Boston, OCADU, and Institute of American Indian Arts, and York University. Her painting practice is in large format oil on canvas and she has also been an outspoken advocate for the preservation of Indigenous archaeology and Indigenous ceramics within local communities. She is the founder of Gimaa Radio, Ojibwe Language radio CHYF 88.9fm. She served also as the Art Director of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, and has shown her work at venues including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Station Gallery, the Art Gallery of Sudbury and the Gary Farmer Gallery of Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Beam’s work is part of the permanent collections at the Art Gallery of Peterborough, the Ford Foundation, Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and the Royal Ontario Museum among others. http://www.anongmigwansbeam.com/

Carl Beam

Carl Beam (1943-2005) was born at M’Chigeeng First Nation (West Bay), Manitoulin Island, and was a ground-breaking contemporary artist who created opportunities for future generations of Indigenous artists working in Canada. He is recognized as the first contemporary Indigenous artist to have work purchased by the National Gallery of Canada. Born to an Ojibwe mother and American father, Beam’s elders gave him the name “Ahkideh” from the Anishinaabe word “aakode,” which means “one who is brave.” From the age of ten to eighteen, he was sent to the Garnier Residential School, in Spanish, Ontario, an experience that influenced much of his later artwork. Throughout the 1970s, Beam attended multiple educational institutions to further his artistic career. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria and pursued a Master’s Degree at the University of Alberta. During this time, Beam developed his signature style, which uses photo-transfer, collage, and mixed media techniques to create large-scale and visually commanding art. His prolific artistic career also encompassed painting, ceramics, sculpture, and performance.

Beam’s artwork has been featured in many prominent exhibitions, including the National Gallery’s Indigena: Perspectives of Indigenous Peoples on Five Hundred Years (1992) and a touring retrospective of his work in 2010. He was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts in 2000 and received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2005.

Ron Benner

Ron Benner is an internationally recognized, London (ON) based artist whose longstanding practice investigates the history and political economics of food cultures. Benner originally studied agriculture at the University of Guelph. Finding himself ethically opposed to bioengineering, he began to travel and research the politics of food. In 1995, he began working with the Rural Advancement Foundation International, Ottawa (RAFI). In 2000, Benner was awarded the Canada Council Studio in Paris. In 2005, the artist participated in Art, Geography and Invisibility at an international geography symposium in Olot, Catalonia, the University of Barcelona, Spain. In 2010, he was appointed Adjunct Research Professor in the Visual Arts Department, Western University in London. Benner’s work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Museum London, Art Gallery of Ontario and many cultural institutions in Canada and internationally. His photographic garden installations have been installed in locations across Canada and in Salamanca and Sevilla, Spain. Museum London’s French/English bilingual publication Ron Benner: Gardens of a Colonial Present published in 2008, documents and analyses his numerous garden installations constructed between 1987 and 2005. http://www.ronbenner.ca/

Susan Blight

Susan Blight (Anishinaabe, Couchiching First Nation) is an interdisciplinary artist working with public art, site-specific intervention, photography, film and social practice. Her solo and collaborative work engages questions of personal and cultural identity and its relationship to space. Susan is co-founder of Ogimaa Mikana, an artist collective working to reclaim and rename the roads and landmarks of Anishinaabeg territory with Anishinaabemowin and is a member of the Indigenous Routes artist collective which works to provide free new media training for Indigenous youth.

Her writing has been published in Shameless Magazine, the Globe & Mail, and on the Decolonization: Indigeneity, Society, and Education blog and she is the recipient of a 2014 IDERD award for her anti-racism work at the University of Toronto. Susan received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies from the University of Manitoba, a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Windsor in Integrated Media, and is a PhD student in Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT). In August 2019, Susan joined OCAD University as Delaney Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and as Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies. https://www.susanblight.com/

Jenn Cole

Jenn Cole is a mixed-ancestry Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe and Assistant Professor in Gender and Women’s Studies at Trent University. She researches Indigenous Performance as it intersects with settler/Indigenous relations and reciprocal relationships to the land, especially at the site of the Kiji Sibi/Ottawa River in Algonquin Territory. She is Associate Artistic Producer and Director of Nozhem First Peoples Performance Space and editor for Views and Reviews for Canadian Theatre Review. Her earlier work focuses on the cultural history of hysteria and the hysterics’ modes of resistance to misogynist medical spectacle. Her current performance practice explores storytelling, autobiography and sharing food together as an expression of vulnerability and relational exchange that is pivotal as we try to cultivate a sense of who we are in relation. In programming, curation, publication, public talks, teaching and performance, she works to create experiences that enable participants across generations to decolonize their relationships to place and one another through multi-arts practices.

She is Creative Director of the Aging Activisms Research Collective; Co-Investigator in the SSHRC-funded partnership development project, Gatherings: Archival and Oral Histories of Canadian Performance; Co-convenor of the Indigenous Performance Research in the Americas Working Group for the American Society for Theatre Research; and editor of Gatherings, a publication for the collection and distribution of creative scholarly work in performance. She has conducted arts, workshop and performance scholarship programming for events like Precarious Festival, the national Canadian Association for Theatre Research conferences (2017, 2018); Stories of Resistance, Resurgence and Resilience in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough: Aging Activisms Intergenerational Storytelling Workshops (2018); Impossible Projects Symposia (2016, 2018); The Future of Cage: Credo conference (2012) and Polyphony (2005-7). https://jenncole1.wordpress.com/

Melissa General

Melissa General is a Mohawk artist from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design University and received a Masters of Fine Arts degree from York University. She is a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, audio, video and installation which is largely focused on her home territory of Six Nations and the concepts of memory, language and land. General’s artwork has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Lamont Gallery, Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Harbourfront Centre, Stride Gallery, Gallery 101, Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, and was included in the 2016 Contemporary Native Art Biennial in Montréal. She is a Hnatyshyn Foundation REVEAL – Indigenous Art Award laureate and was named as the 2018 Ontario Arts Council Indigenous Arts Award Emerging Artist Laureate.

Mike MacDonald

Mike MacDonald (1941- 2006) was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia. A media artist of Mi’kmaq ancestry, Mike drove across Canada every year working as a video installation artist and gardener in addition to pursuing photography and new media projects. Self-taught, he focused on the environment, often incorporating plants and animals in his artworks. After a stint working in a television studio in Toronto, MacDonald moved to Vancouver in 1977 and soon became involved with Metro Media Society of Greater Vancouver (1971-1985). There, he began to use his camera to document peace activism. His video work gradually became focused on the fight for self-determination of indigenous peoples, in particular, First Nations in British Columbia where he resided for much of his career. Congruent to this focus, he began to experiment with media installation itself, culminating in such iconic work as Electronic Totem (1987) and Seven Sisters (1989). He found inspiration in both his aboriginal ancestry and Western sources, drawing from science as well as traditional medicine and ethnobotany.

His works have been featured in exhibitions worldwide at such venues as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona and the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, France. In 1994, he was awarded the prestigious Jack and Doris Shadbolt Prize from the Vancouver Institute for Visual Arts and in 2000 he received the first Aboriginal Achievement Award for New Media presented at the Toronto imagiNATIVE Festival. MacDonald’s most renowned projects include the butterfly gardens he has planted across Canada since the early 1990s. They are tactile living examples of his devotion to and admiration of the environment. Mike’s careful, positive storytelling, as well as his tender regard for nature built him a reputation as one of the more significant contemporary artists in Canada.

Lisa Myers

Lisa Myers is a Port Severn and Toronto-based artist and a member of Beausoleil First Nation. Her background of growing up on a farm and working as a cook, has influenced her artwork and research. Myers is also known for her work with storytelling, Indigenous culture, hospitality, mapping, and kinesthetic experience. She has a keen interest in interdisciplinary collaboration.  Since 2010, she has worked with anthocyanin pigment from blueberries in printmaking, and her stop-motion animation and participatory performance involving the sharing of berries and other food items in social gatherings, reflecting on the value found in place and displacement, straining and absorbing.

She has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, including Urban Shaman in Winnipeg, the Art Gallery of Peterborough, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario, where she was Artist in Residence. Her writing has been published in a number of exhibition publications in addition to Senses and Society, C Magazine and Fuse. Myers is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University and currently co-leading an interdisciplinary research project called Finding Flowers with ecologist Dr Sheila Colla considering wild pollinators, ecology, and art, wherein Myers has focused on the gardens by the late Mi’kmaq artist Mike MacDonald.

Lisa Myers is the 2021 Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor, McMaster University. Funding support for Myers’ walks and lecture include: Presidents office, School of the Arts, McMaster Museum of Art, English and Cultural Studies (ECS), Gender Studies and Feminist Research (GSFR), Communication Studies and Multi Media (CSMM), Peace Studies and History.

https://lisarosemyers.com/home.html

Related Readings and Resources

  • ayaandagon: outdoor art installations in an anishinaabe garden by William Kingfisher, Art Gallery of Peterborough, 2010
  • A People’s Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living: Health, Environment, Agriculture, Native Traditions, edited by Gregory Cajete, Clear Light Publishers, 1999
  • Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience, Enrique Salmon, University of Arizona Press, 2012
  • Plant Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have To Do Is Ask: Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings, Mary Siisip Geniuz, University of Minnesota Press, 2015
  • Politics of Food, Edited by Aaron Cezar and Dani Burrows, Delfina Foundation, 2019
  • Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land, Leah Penniman, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018
  • The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans, Klindienst, Patricia, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006