ROM exhibit examines indigenous art and power


Powerful Indigenous artwork has caught the eyes of museum attendees at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Anishinaabeg: Art and Power is an art exhibition of pieces by the Anishinaabeg peoples, a group made up of Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, Chippewa and Algonquin from all over Canada.  The Anishaabeg have used artwork to represent their cultures and traditions for centuries.

A display at the Royal Ontario Museum to leave Anishinaabeg tobacco. (Photo by Allie Murray/The Sheridan Sun)

The exhibition had three curators, and they focused strongly on representing the Indigenous culture and traditions through the artwork. Co-Curator Saul Williams said the Royal Ontario Museum did not want to dwell on negative topics. “We wanted to share what we’ve learned about our culture, their beliefs, their legends, and hopefully the young people will learn something from it,” explained Williams.

Assistant curator Arni Brownstone felt proud of the exhibition in how they held true to the Indigenous philosophies in the way the artwork was displayed. “With the circular structure of the exhibition and the east to west orientation, I think the Indigenous philosophies kind of come through. I think that’s an important way for people to understand that they’re entering another cultures world.” Brownstone said.

Exhibition attendee Helena Peters, was fascinated by a painting called Woman in White Buckskin by Blake Debassige. The painting depicts seven Wikwmikong First Nations teenagers who committed suicide. “This one I find extraordinary, but I wouldn’t want to live with it, because the message is too strong.” Peters said.

Woman in White Buckskin by Blake Debassige, 1976. (Photo by Allie Murray/The Sheridan Sun)

The curators looked through 700 pieces of artwork, beading, drums, clothing, and bows and arrows as they were gathering pieces for the exhibition. They were hopeful of representing Indigenous traditions and beliefs through the art pieces they gathered.

The exhibition began June 17 and is running until Nov. 19.