Indigenous Art Resources

Our stories define who we are. When Indigenous cultures were outlawed across Canada, voices were silenced. When those stories went underground to survive, others tried to define them. It was artists who brought those stories back for the world to see and hear.

This episode from the Art of Sovereignty podcast features Inuit printmaker Daphne Odjig who is described as “the matriarch of contemporary Indigenous arts in Canada.” Most well-known for painting family life, colonial history, and Anishinaabe legends, Odjig pushed back against what the art market demanded of her as an Indigenous artist – as she embraced her Potawatomi identity. She also fiercely supported other Indigenous artists, opening her own art gallery, and forming the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc.

Educators might tie this episode into another TVO resource called TVO Arts. TVO Arts decodes and demystifies iconic works of Canadian art. By learning about the artists, their backstories, and their diverse perspectives, learners will discover why and how they create and share their love of art.

Educators might begin their lesson with these provocations in groups or as a whole class which focus on:

  • composition
  • representation
  • significance

These pre-viewing prompts lead to more biographical information about the artist.

An ideal scenario would be to follow then with the full TVOArts video as a whole and to use the accompanying study guide for further exploration. Each of the TVO Arts episodes has a study guide provided.

The Enchanted Owl by Kenojuak Ashevak

The TVOArts episode about current Cree artist Kent Monkman might help students to unpack the nature of Indigenous art in an entirely new way.

“With these large-scale paintings really what I’m trying to do is to authorize indigenous experience both historic and contemporary into this canon of art history. We’ve been erased from the art history of this continent.”
Kent Monkman

Kent Monkman identifies as Two-Spirit. Educators might use this TVO The Agenda resource which gives the history of the term Two-Spirit.

Today Canadian Society is steeped in colonial notions of sexuality and gender.
What is Two-Spirit identity? June 22, 2021.

TVO Today also has rich articles like this one about how art continues to amplify the cultural values of Indigenous people.

To celebrate the 26th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day (called National Aboriginal Day until 2017), spoke with three Indigenous artists about their careers, how their identity influences their work, and what National Indigenous Peoples Day means to them.
Charnel Anderson, June 21, 2022.
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