Official Language-Joi Arcand

September 2014 - November 2014

Artist - Joi Arcand

This project was envisioned when my Board of Directors at Sasipenita Educational Exhibit an Aboriginal arts organization asked me to curate exhibitions and projects around the theme of Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Now you may ask- what does Indigenous language have to do with Aboriginal missing and murdered women? The underlying issues which are many, point to what Amnesty International has said in their 2004 report-Canada:Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and violence against indigenous women in Canada; that Aboriginal people are often over-policed and under-protected; not only by the civic institutions like the police but perhaps more importantly the Government and political powers at play in Canada.

What art can do is reimagine or unsettle the political powers at play by re-imagining a colonized site into a post-colonial reality. More importantly these works are meant as a public intervention, to relay to the public an Indigenous centered worldview and what that would implicate if Indigenous languages were Canada’s official or national language as opposed to English and French. What if Canada’s official languages were Indigenous, what would this shift in power implicate? How would Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women be treated politically and civically if Canada was Indigenous centered through language? This photo-based series is about unsettling the powers that be, creating power shifts through language and what that would implicate for Aboriginal people at large in Canada.

In Saskatoon at 424 20th Street West is Aka and paved galleries; atop these galleries is a large billboard which artists and curators can utilize to make art work.Currently you can view otē nīkān misiwē askīhk – Here on Future Earth (Amber Motors)which is connected to the current exhibit you are now viewing, by Muskeg Cree Nation based artist Joi Arcand. The billboard can be viewed from December 2013 to February 2014. The public who drive by are seeing a visual narrative of artist Joi Arcand’s perception of a reimagined Canada.

As mentioned the current exhibit partners with the Billboard project. Imagining or visioning is the first step in creating strategies of transformation and change. Contemporary artists like Joi Arcand not only visually counter particular colonial histories and current realities she also imagines a future post-colonial reality. The plains Cree text replaces English text alluding to a future reality where Canada’s first languages are Indigenous. Language is connected to First Nations sense of power and place as each language is regionally unique. Arcand’s use of Plains Cree within the image connects this particular Indigenous group to this territory. Colonial languages spoken and read by Indigenous peoples on a daily basis is a reminder to Indigenous people on an incessant level that their language and culture sits on the margins of empire as is their right to justice. Indigenous women are amongst the most vulnerable in our country and the re-visioning of a power-shift alludes to the need for transformation and change in our current reality to address prejudicial injustice, in this particular context towards Aboriginal women in Saskatchewan.

This billboard is presented through a partnership withSasipenita Educational Exhibit and through the generous support of SIGA: the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.