Multimedia Exhibition ‘qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways’ Celebrates Expression of Identity and Culture

Wednesday 10th, April 2019 / 10:52
By Maggie McPhee

photo by Marika Echachis Swan

Where: Bill Reid Gallery
When: April 10 – October 2

ReMatriate Collective and the Bill Reid Gallery present qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways, a multimedia exhibition honouring Indigenous womxn’s relationship to water as child bearers, healers and doulas. Inspired by the fluid and borderless nature of water systems, the exhibition hopes to galvanize the community at large to protect waterways and Indigenous sovereignty.

“ReMatriate Collective aims to celebrate Indigenous womxn’s expression of identity, culture and knowledge by asserting positive self-determined representation,” the curators explain. ReMatriate formed in 2014 with the aim of challenging colonial media by re-centering matriarchs, womxn, elders, gender-non binary and Two-Spirit individuals within our discussions and exaltations of Indigenous experiences. “In light of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit peoples,” they explain. “There is a need to support womxn’s sovereignty, and to educate the broader community about matriarchal systems.”

ReMatriate’s mission culminates in qaʔ yəxw, the collective’s most significant exhibition project to date. Nine female-identifying artists hailing from diverse backgrounds and geographies — Gitxsan, Stó:lō, Kaska Dena, Mohawk, Nuu-chah-nulth, Tlingit, Selkirk, Blackfoot, and Cree — bring their worldviews and cultural practices to explore womxn’s relationship to water. Together they weave a patchwork of divergent Northwest Coast Indigenous mythologies and artistic traditions to acknowledge our connections to each other and the land, uniting us as we enter into an era of ecological crisis.

photo by Kali Spitzer

Carrielynn Victor (Stó:lō) reflects upon ancestral and colonial influences on Indigenous cosmologies to remind audiences to honour womxn’s connection to the moon. Veronica Waechter (Gitxsan) uses a mask to draw parallels between water and womxn, from our gentle and nurturing qualities to our dangerous and powerful ones. Richelle Bear Hat (Blackfoot/Cree) – in light of the UN declaring 2019 the year of Indigenous Language Revitalization – anchors her art around how Indigenous languages and landscapes intersect.

“Indigenous people are as diverse as the land,” and including an array of heritages and mediums allows the exhibition to embody its themes of inclusion, community, and self-determination. By unearthing pre-colonial knowledge and sharing ancient frameworks through art, ReMatriate hopes to inspire new approaches to increasingly challenging political and environmental issues.

“Our traditional lands includes all non-human beings too, and these creatures all deserve the right to live their lives as much as humans do, to grow and roam their home territories, undisturbed by the encroachment of industries. The way we treat the land is a reflection of how we treat ourselves and each other. The land and water and skies are sacred. Womxn’s bodies are sacred.”

qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways also highlights Water Keeper Audrey Seigl (Musqueam) who will be present at the exhibition.