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At The Gallery / a genocide laid bare by jaz whitford – with Manuel Axel Strain, Louise Bernice Halfe, Jónína Kirton, Karmella Benedito De Barros, and Smokii Sumac

May 23, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - July 20, 2023 @ 5:00 pm PDT

March 21st 2023 – May 18th 2023, Massy Arts will host, a genocide laid bare, a new show by secwe̓pemc & mixed settler interdisciplinary artist jaz whitford that juxtaposes visual artworks with ekphrastic poetry, installed at the gallery as an invitation to discuss heritage, systemic aggressions, and Indigenous history between mediums.

For the show, parsing visual pieces from whitford’s work, Indigenous poets created poems exploring themes of genocide, decolonization, identity, land, and resurgence, which are enlarged and exhibited in contrast to whitford’s visual universe. 

Poets chosen to be part of this project are: Louise Bernice Halfe / Sky Dancer (Cree poet, appointed as Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate in 2021); Smokii Sumac (Ktunaxa poet and PhD Candidate in Indigenous Studies at Trent University); Jónína Kirton (Red River Métis/Icelandic poet, author, and facilitator); and Karmella Benedito De Barros (Mistawasis Nêhiyaw/Afro-Brazilian Poet, Artist, and Indigenous Brilliance Community Engagement Mentor within Room Magazine).

Part of this exhibition, Manuel Axel Strain will create an original installation piece that dialogues with whitford’s ideas on heritage, violence, and Indigenous history.

This project is supported by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver + First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

The Massy Arts Gallery is located at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.
The gallery is open Monday to Sunday, 12pm to 5pm.
Entrance is free, and masks are mandatory.

To contact the gallery, send an email to: info@massyarts.com.

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The Artist

jaz whitford is a secwe̓pemc & mixed settler interdisciplinary artist who embodies anti-professionalism, and anti-colonialism, as a way to move toward a future where indigenous knowledge and ways of being are not only respected, but valued & revered.

Using a range of materials, forms and mediums, they work to investigate and express their lived experience and understanding of spirituality, resistance, ancestral connections, and community care.

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The Poets

Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Louise is married, has two adult children and three grandsons. She graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina. She also completed two years of Addictions Counselor Training at St. Albert’s Nechi Institute where she also facilitated the program. She served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for two years. Her books include, Bear Bones and Feathers, Blue Marrow, The Crooked Good, Burning In This Midnight Dream, Sohkeyihta, and awasis-kinky and dishevelled.

Smokii Sumac (Ktunaxa) is a poet and PhD Candidate in Indigenous Studies at Trent University, where his work centers on the question: how do we come home? As an Indigenous adoptee, intergenerational residential school survivor, and two-spirit person, Smokii’s lived experiences are deeply embedded into his art and research. His first poetry collection, you are enough: love poems for the end of the world, (Kegedonce Press, 2018) won an Indigenous Voices Award for published poetry, and Smokii has recently been named as a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize.

Jónína Kirton, an Icelandic and Red River Métis poet was born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, the traditional lands of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Anishinaabeg and the Métis. She was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Her third book, Standing in a River of Time, was released in 2022. She is a citizen of the Métis Nation of BC and currently lives in New Westminster BC, the unceded territory of the Halkomelem speaking peoples.

Karmella Benedito De Barros is a 2S Mistawasis Nêhiyaw and Afro-Brazilian plant lover, community support worker, artist and organizer. They are born and raised in diaspora, as a guest on stolen & unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh territories. Karmella is currently a Cultural Wellness Worker at Kilala Lelum Health Clinic. They are a Co-Founder of the Art Ecosystem Project, Member of the Indigenous Brilliance Collective, and Support the CRUW program at xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Indigenous Peoples Garden at the UBC Farm (Musqueam). Karmella’s most recent work is featured in Activations Of Solidarity with the Indigenous Curatorial Collective 2021, and Room Magazine issue 44.1 Growing Room.

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Window Artist

Manuel Axel Strain is a 2-Spirit artist from the lands and waters of the xʷməθkʷəyəm (Musqueam), Simpcw and Syilx peoples, based in the sacred region of their q̓ic̓əy̓(Katzie) and qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen) relatives. Strains mother is Tracey Strain and father is Eric Strain, Tracey’s parents are Harold Eustache (from Chuchua) and Marie Louis (from nk̓maplqs), Eric’s Parents are Helen Point (from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) and John Strain (from Ireland). Although they attended Emily Carr University of Art + Design they prioritize Indigenous epistemologies through the embodied knowledge of their mother, father, siblings, cousins, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents and ancestors.

Creating artwork in collaboration with and reference to their relatives, their shared experiences become a source of agency that resonates through their work with performance, land, painting, sculpture, photography, video, sound and installation. Their artworks often envelop subjects in relation with ancestral and community ties, Indigeneity, labour, resource extraction, gender, Indigenous medicine and life forces. Strain often perceives their work to confront and undermine the imposed realities of colonialism. Proposing a new space beyond its oppressive systems of power. They have contributed work to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Surrey Art Gallery, the UBCO Fina gallery, were longlisted for the 2022 Sobey Award and were a recipient of the 2022 Portfolio Prize.

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May 23, 2023 @ 12:00 pm PDT
July 20, 2023 @ 5:00 pm PDT