Amy Malbeuf: apihkêw
May 13th - June 25th, 2016
She weaves, she braids, she knits
Kokums, great-grandmothers, mothers, aunties, women of the earth.
They bring The Land forth through their roots.
The gallery space transports us to northern Alberta, Home Land to artist Amy
Malbeuf. A strip of land from her family farm lies raw, reminiscent of that which
has been and continues to be dispossessed. Her work is deeply personal (the
braids a literal extension of the artist), but it is also somehow familiar.
The work invites us to contemplate the sacredness of the body. Laced hair
alludes to the old ways of the women that went before us, weaved through the
fibers of our beings. A reminder of the everyday presence of our relations, our
ancestors, shrouded in favor of modern-day individualism.
The work is situated within a movement that seeks to honour and give voice to
Indigenous women who have been silenced. As a Métis woman, Malbeuf is
conscious of the ways in which the bodies, names, stories, and work of
indigenous women have been excluded within Métis histories. Contextualized
within Malbeuf’s body of work as a performance artist, bead-worker and
caribou-hair tufter, apihkêw exists along a continuum of creative endeavours that
highlight often-unrecognized women’s craftwork meanwhile re-imagining
Indigenous contemporary art.
For Indigenous women, ignoring the women that came before us is futile, as
their pain and trauma is inherited through generations. The body is a vessel of
not only unresolved despair, but also enduring strength. The gallery environment
is haunting, charged with a sense of grief that may cause a visceral reaction for
some people. The aesthetic of the work is stark, a reminder of all that has been
lost in a relentless gale of colonization: culture, identity, spirituality, language and
The interrelatedness of all living beings is a central component of apihkêw,
weaved together through connections that transcend time and space.
Illuminating the ways in which experiences are relived throughout generational
lifetimes, the work stands as a tactile reminder of the stillness and flux of the
passing of time. Drawing on concepts described by indigenous scholar Leroy
Little Bear, temporality is understood as cyclical and non-linear. Place is thought
together with time and space.
Though subtle, the collection in its entirety is powerful, chilling, and
provocative. An atmosphere of mourning culminates with an intensity that is felt
through the cutting of braids. Though in other contexts, it may be an icon of
residential school trauma and indigenous erasure, here expresses something
complex. The future is re-imagined, unshackled from solemnity. Not an absolving
of the women and their resilience that has been passed through the body along
bloodlines, but a recognition that strength lies in surrendering to oneself.
Though somber, the work whispers beyond the bleakness, of persistence
through adversity, of a life after loss, of Ahkemeyimowak.