Running until Nov. 8 at the contemporary Aboriginal art gallery, Urban Shaman, in the Exchange District, Maandaw ‘Igaan Mazinibii’igan features the work of Russel Everett, Ryan Gorrie, Rachelle Lemieux, Cheyenne Thomas, David Thomas, Destiny Seymour and Eladia Smoke.
I did not realize until I was in the midst of a conversation with this artist-run centre’s director and exhibition curator, Daina Warren, how deeply I was affected by seeing this show.
Many years ago, as a third year student of Interior Design in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba, I dropped out. I could not see myself pursuing a career that seemed, in most part, to serve the privileged. Now, to see a group of locally based Aboriginal architects and designers produce work that has served Aboriginal communities and reflected distinct cultural values, my opinion of the profession and the Faculty of Architecture has shifted significantly.
According to Daina Warren, all the participants to the group except late comer, Russel Everett from Saskatchewan, went through the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture at the same time.
I asked Ms. Warren how she thought the school supported and directed Indigenous architecture students. She said all the members spoke highly of the program. They have since worked as a group, informing each other’s work even as they became associated with different firms.
From that, one could surmise that the relationship began at school. They shared cultural, social and aesthetic values. Collectively, the group brought them forward and the school responded. Their graduate project, the Aboriginal Student Centre at the University of Manitoba was in collaboration with the local firm, Prairie Architects. In their professional lives, one can see that mutual process continues, and Warren says they will envision together ideas for the Urban Shaman gallery before the exhibition ends.
Maandaw ‘Igaan Mazinibii’igan features 3D models, plans, photographs, project descriptions and an overhead projection of drawings on transparencies. A soothing traditional song plays over the conceptual site development video in the Marvin Francis Media Gallery.
School conceptual projects also include Cheyenne Thomas’ Winnipeg Exchange District proposals. There are several community-based projects from northern communities, such as Anishinaabe School at Little Black River, and those in Ontario, such as Poplar Hill.
Two of the projects are site-specific responses to the natural environment, such as The Gathering Circle in Thunder Bay by Ryan Gorrie and The Boreal Forest Tourism Centre at Wanipigow.
There are familiar local public spaces such as the Aboriginal Reading in the Round in the Millenium Library by interior designer, Destiny Seymour.
The proposed facade design for the APTN building on Portage will mark the work of Rachelle Lemieux, David Thomas, Eladia Smoke and Seymour.
Distinctly Aboriginal architecture on Selkirk Avenue includes the Urban Circle Training Centre and the Inner City Social Work building. \
The project that strikes home for me is the Makoonsag Intergenerational Learning Centre on Selkirk Avenue. As an educator, I respect and value this initiative, a vision by Elder Stella Blackbird, to have a place where all generations can learn together. Time will tell if manifestations such as this will provide a postcolonial space where all generations of urban Indigenous communities may learn together and embrace culture and worldviews as their own.
Maandaw ‘Igaan Mazinibii’igan has shown me a collective of Indigenous people can successfully work with non-Indigenous academic and professional people. At a time when we are thinking about what it means to be treaty people – it’s a good sign. We are all the better for it. Yes.
Tues – Sat 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Sudays & Mondays