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Art, not Artifacts: We Are On Treaty Land Exhibit

Are you aware that the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), the city and the Province of Manitoba are all on Treaty One land and the province was established by the Metis?

Jamie Isaac wanted to acknowledge the Indigenous roots of Winnipeg and Manitoba with her first exhibition at the WAG as the Gallery's new Curatorial Resident of Indigenous and Contemporary Art.

"I really wanted to acknowledge where the WAG is situated geographically," said Isaac, "To also acknowledge the territory we are within that is Treaty One territory."

Isaac's mother is from Sagkeeng First Nation, she said with a smile, and pointed out it too is in Treaty One territory.

While the collection does include, for example, a replica of a Treaty One medal given out to the chiefs who originally signed Treaty One. The exhibit also includes art from around the province from First Nation artists and First Nation artists who have had an impact on Manitoba.

The art exhibit is also complimented by historical objects on loan from the Manitoba Museum.

Isaac said there is a tendency to dismiss and confine historical objects to the past with little relevance in modern life. 

However, just like the treaties, the historical objects are just as relevant today as more modern Indigenous artists. 

"I have a contention with museums holding our Indigenous property and bringing them out of the collection and into the context of a contemporary art gallery to really challenge the fact that they are artifacts and really art. It took a really long time for someone to bead that bandolier bag," said Isaac.

She did take the time to acknowledge how helpful the Manitoba Museum staff were as she set up the exhibit. 

Other artists featured in the exhibit include: Robert Houle, Rosalie Favell, KC Adams, Lita Fontaine, Murray McKenzie, Caje Shand, Daphne Odjig, Jeffrey Thomas and Jackson Beardy.

Isaac stops by a Daphne Odjig painting and smiles. She says that if I can remember that far back that Odjig, originally from Northern Ontario, was one of the first to open her own art gallery on Donald Street here in Winnipeg back in the early 70's.

As for my own personal opinion, I was blown away by everything in We Are On Treaty Land.

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