A Celebration of Indigenous Artists

MAI to Host Tenth Editions of Indigenous Arts Showcase, Eclectik

Caroline Monnet’s series “Modern Tipi,” will premier for the first time in Montreal at Montreal Arts Interculturels on Jan. 20. Photo courtesy Caroline Monnet

As Canada and Montreal celebrate anniversaries this year, a group of Indigenous artists is taking a look at this country’s history through a less eurocentric lens.

Taking place between Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 at Montréal Arts Interculturels, this year’s edition of Eclectik, “Welcome to Indian Country,” will feature art and performances by Indigenous artists.

“It really gives the power to the artists to self-express their claim of space and identity and history […] It’s really reflecting more on who we are as Indigenous people,” said Lara Kramer, an Oji-Cree artist, and curator of the show.

Kramer, a first-time curator and Concordia graduate, organized the evening to showcase a wide range of Indigenous perspectives. The festival will feature predominantly performance art, but will also include music, visual art and short film screenings. Most of the artists are based in Montreal.
“My background is more in contemporary dance so I wanted to bridge these mediums,” Kramer explained. With a variety of artists from different backgrounds, Kramer said that the work represents Canadian history from an Indigenous point of view.

In collaboration with artist Emilie Monnet, Kramer has co-created a politically charged installation piece for the show. The duo will present a first draft of their work, while the completed version of the project will premiere in Montreal in June.

When the two teamed up for the piece, Kramer and Monnet were inclined to create something based on the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

These recommendations urged the Canadian government to change policies and programs to address—and rectify—the harm caused by residential schools.

Émilie Monnet’s collaborative piece is a reflective work on the Canadian government’s inquiries into the missing and murdered Indigenous women that began in 2016. Photo Franca Mignacca

The title of the piece, “This Time Will be Different,” is an “ironic” take on the on the history of the Canadian government inquiries into Indigenous affairs, Kramer explained.

The performance will stage a court hearing. According to Monnet, it represents the importance of inquiries, the “price tag of trauma,” and the lack of action taken on behalf of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
She hopes this performance will incite new conversations, and have people look at the issue from a new perspective.

“As a society, maybe we feel that things are moving forward […] But when you look at the broader picture, you can see that it doesn’t seem like things are changing that much,” said Monnet.

“As a society, maybe we feel that things are moving forward […] But when you look at the broader picture, you can see that it doesn’t seem like things are changing that much.”— Emilie Monnet, artist

While Kramer and Monnet initially planned to appear in their piece, they opted to step back and have others perform in it.

Monnet entered the arts when she attended theatre school about a decade ago. Before that, she worked with the Quebec Native Women’s Association in Kahnawake and other organizations in South America. Her work with these organizations and activism has had a significant impact on the subject matter of her artistic work.

This also happens to be Monnet’s first semester co-facilitating a course at Concordia. PERC 490, or “Dwellings,” is an interdisciplinary course in the Theatre Department with the goal of students creating a “roaming performance” presented in different areas of the campus.

Meanwhile, Emilie Monnet’s younger sister, Caroline Monnet, will present multiple works at the festival; four paintings from her Modern Tipi series and a short video entitled “Mobilize.” In their form and content, she combines tradition with contemporary elements in both of these pieces. Though the works have already been premiered, it’ll be the first time they are shown in Montreal.

Modern Tipi is a set of contemporary paintings in which sharp lines and shapes represent tipis. The tipis in the painting symbolize Indigenous stereotypes. Emilie Monnet said that people often associate Indigenous people with tipis, but not all communities or nations used them. Her Algonquin ancestors lived in wigwams—stationary, dome-shaped homes built from trees.

Against a background of contemporary music, “Mobilize”—part of a series of four short films—addresses the evolving lives of Indigenous communities, and presents its subjects in their everyday lives.

“I am hoping that with my work, I can create experiences that people can relate to—whether they are Indigenous or not,” Caroline said. “I don’t purposely create work that is political, but I guess it comes out this way. I want people to feel energized seeing Indigenous people on screen.”

Soleil Launière, the artist behind “Mashinnu.”

Interdisciplinary artist Soleil Launière will premier “Mashinnu,” a multimedia performance art piece with elements of dance, in which she will be the sole performer. “Mashinnu” is a word used to describe people with a Quebecois mother and an Indigenous father, like herself.
“I’m talking about [the duality] of things,” started Launière. “I’m gay as well—two-spirited—so I talk about my masculine and my feminine sides combined, as well as my Quebecois and Native-American sides.

The subject of dualities is a motif in her past works, though Launière admitted that she’s never presented it quite like this. Dualities manifest themselves in her life in many ways. She considers herself an introvert and prefers to keep to herself. When she gets in front of an audience, however, all the emotion and noise that she holds in flows from her in a burst of confidence and energy.

In this particular performance, she hopes to pass along the message that people should not judge on first impressions.

Like many of the performances at the festival, her work is contemporary.

“Sometimes when you’re thinking about Aboriginal art, you’re thinking about something that’s very old, and old forms of art […] [People] expect something very traditional and we are not there anymore,” Launière said.
The event is open to people of all ages and identities. It will feature emcee Jimmy Blais along with the work of over ten artists.

“I think it’s quite exciting to think that [the audience is] going to be exposed to some work that they wouldn’t necessarily even cross paths with,” Kramer said. “I think that there will be something there for just about anyone to experience and become moved by.”

Welcome to Indian Country // Jan. 20 + 21 // MAI // 3680 Jeanne-Mance St. // 8 p.m. // $20