Arctic/Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity explores the ways in which Indigenous contemporary artists take on issues of climate change, globalized Indigeneity, and contact zones in and about the Arctic and the Amazon during a time of crisis. The featured artists have their origins in these places, and their works embody a politics of resistance, resurgence, and ways of knowing and being in relation to the lands that are the source of their knowledge and creativity.
A constellation of new and past works by artists Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Iñupiaq and Athabascan, United States), Tanya Lukin Linklater (Alutiiq/Sugpiaq, United States/Canada), Couzyn van Heuvelen (Inuk, Canada), Máret Ánne Sara (Sámi, Norway), Uýra (Indigenous in diaspora), Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano, Wilma Maynas & Ronin Koshi (Shipibo-Konibo, Peru), Morzaniel Ɨramari Yanomami (Yanomami, Brazil), Gisela Motta & Leandro Lima(Brazil), Pia Arke (Kalaaleq and Danish, Greenland/Denmark), Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe (Yanomami, Venezuela) and Biret & Gáddjá Haarla Pieski, Outi Pieski (Sámi, Finland) are featured in Arctic/Amazon. Encompassing a range of media, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, installation, video, and performance, this exhibition seeks to shed light on current geopolitical and environmental sustainability issues that inform artistic practices in these two vastly different, yet interconnected, regions.
Uýra, Portraits of the artist, 2017-19.
The main themes in this group exhibition are drawn from the Arctic/Amazon symposium that was co-hosted by the Ontario College of Art & Design University and The Power Plant in September 2019. The purpose of the symposium was to gather established and emerging Indigenous scholars, curators, and artists primarily from North American regions of the Arctic and Amazonian zones to meet, exchange ideas, share works, and develop collaborative strategies that would bring together traditional knowledges of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
Artworks in this exhibition contain sequences of flashing images and sensory audio. Viewer discretion is advised.
Arctic/Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity is initiated, organized, and circulated by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax. It was was curated by Gerald McMaster (Lead Curator), Nina Vincent (Co-Curator), and Noor Alé (Institutional Curator). The presentation of the exhibition was supported by Lead Donor, Hal Jackman Foundation; Major Donor, Goring Family Foundation; International Arts Partners: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, and Nordic Bridges.
Watch the curators talk about the exhibition:
Learn More About the Artists
Couzyn Van Heuvelen
Couzyn van Heuvelen is an Inuk sculptor and installation artist originally from Iqaluit, NU. Based in southern Ontario, van Heuvelen’s artistic practice focuses on fusing Inuit art history and traditions with contemporary materials and technologies. Van Heuvelen’s use of unconventional materials and fabrication processes, combined with elements of Inuit culture, mirrors his own process of exploring how traditional practices continue to influence his everyday life.
Van Heuvelen’s series Fishing Lures (2015) features a variety of materials, from silver and brass to muskox horn and baleen, manipulated through various contemporary techniques. Laser-cut into the surface of Baleen Lure (2015) is a gold-tinted triangular pattern drawn from 3D scans of existing fishing lures transferred into a two-dimensional image. “The image etched into the surface resembles scrimshaw techniques,” explains the artist, “as well as ancient examples of Inuit carvings that featured repeating geometric patterns.”
Alongside these more intimate works, van Heuvelen has created a number of public art installations such as aluminum qamutiik at the Southway Inn in Ottawa, ON, as part of the Lost Stories Project in September 2017. The sculpture commemorates the significance of the site as a waypoint for Inuit travelling from the Arctic for school, work and medical services. Additional public works include the permanent installation Nitsiit (2017) at Sheridan College’s Hazel McCallion Campus in Mississauga, ON, and Nets (2018), exhibited in Fort Qu’Appelle, SK, as part of the project Roadside Attractions.
In 2011, van Heuvelen received his BFA from York University in Toronto, ON, and his MFA from NSCAD University in Halifax, NS, in 2015. His work has been included in several group exhibitions across Canada, such as Insurgence/Resurgence (2018) at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Manitoba and the touring exhibition ᐊᕙᑖᓂᑦ ᑕᒪᐃᓐᓂᑦ ᓄᓇᑐᐃᓐᓇᓂᑦ Among All These Tundras (2018–19), among others. Van Heuvelen is currently represented by Fazakas Gallery in Vancouver, BC.
Máret Ánne Sara
Máret Ánne Sara (b.1983) is an artist and author. She is from a reindeer herding family in Kautokeino and currently works in her hometown. Máret Ánne is the initiator of Dáiddadállu Artist Collective. She has published two novels and was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Children’s and Young Literature Prize in 2014 for her debut book “Ilmmid gaskkas” (published in Norwegian in 2014 and in English in 2016). The follow-up “Doaresbealde doali” was published in 2014. Sara is currently working on the contemporary art project Pile o’Sápmi, which was presented at Documenta 14 in Kassel in 2017.
Máret Ánne has exhibited visual art since 2003 and often deals with political and social issues, from a Sami and reindeer-social perspective. Sara has designed posters, CD / LP covers, scene visuals and fabric prints for a number of Sami artists, designers and institutions. She is said to have a distinctive style and a recognizable visual expression.
Image courtesy Marie Louise Somby
Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano
Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano is an Indigenous Shipibo-Konibo artist from Peru, utilizing traditional art of kené in her creative practice.
Olinda Silvano Inuma grew up in the Native Community of Paohyan on the banks of the Ucayali River. She belongs to the Shipibo-Konibo people, one of the most numerous indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon. She was born at seven months, frail and small. Her grandfather then breathed medicinal plants into her body to strengthen her and placed an invisible crown of kene designs on her head, to endow her with the gift of vision. The plants and medicinal visions not only fortified her health but her will. This visionary ability has accompanied her throughout her life and guided her defence of the Amazon with the power of the luminous designs she received from her ancestors. As a child she lived in intimate familiarity with forest and rivers and learned how to paint and embroider beautiful fabrics covered with kene designs; but she could not complete her schooling because her parents had no money. So, at the age of 15, she travelled to the city of Pucallpa to look for work. With the first payment she earned, she bought a yellow shirt she had promised to take to her father as proof of her determination to succeed in the city. She soon formed her own family and migrated to Lima, the capital, looking for better education conditions for her children.
In Lima, she built a precarious house in a dump on the banks of the polluted Rimac River, founding with other Shipibo-Konibo families the urban community of Cantagallo. For many years, she would go out into the streets of the city to offer her kene embroidery to the passers-by, walking the entire day to bring home a small sustenance. At last, in 2014 she was able to show her works in an art gallery. Olinda has achieved national and international recognition for her colourful embroidery, paintings and murals of extraordinary beauty and light. Her art targets an urban audience but brings into the city the power given her by the plants that she herself received as a child.
Kene lines are not mere abstract geometric graphics; they are the materialization of the koshi force of plants and their ibo, the spiritual owners of the forest, which visionary women, like Olinda, see in their minds and show in their works. The meshes of kene give rise to perceptions in synesthesia, where hearing, smell and touch join in the vision of designs, generating associations between the landscape of the forest and the embroidered and painted paths of designs. For Olinda, her work as a contemporary Shipibo-Konibo artist is a powerful form of activism that uses another language, the language of plants, to fight against discrimination and to defend the Amazon and its peoples from within the hardcore of city life.
Image courtesy Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano
Outi Pieski is a Sámi visual artist, born in 1973 in Helsinki, Finland. Pieski’s paintings, collages and installations employ traditional handicrafts such as the tassels of Sámi shawls to depict the light and landscapes of the far north.
Working primarily with installation and painting, artist and activist Outi Pieski has gained recognition for her artwork examining the history and identity of the Sami people. “Place and matter have a prominent presence in Pieski’s practice. Her works are linked to a specific geographical and a specific cultural landscape and they also draw on materials that have closely defined significance and purposes,” writes curator Milja Liimatainen.
While in-residence at Tamarind—her first experience with lithography—Pieski focused on depicting traditional Sami clothing, specifically the horn hat worn by her foremother, within the region’s dramatic natural environment. Her four editions honor the hues and textures of the land, horizon, light, and terrain, made all the more compelling by the inclusion of the horn hat.
Pieski received her MFA in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts. She has had solo exhibitions throughout Scandinavia and has participated in group exhibitions and projects around the world. Her work in public and private collections including EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, The Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation, Rovaniemi Art Museum, Aine Art Museum, Oulu Art Museum, Sami Parliament Norway/ Sami Art Collection, Art Collection of Norway, Finnish National Gallery, and more. She received the prize of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland in 2017 and the William Thuring Prize, Finnish Art Society, in 2016.
Image courtesy Ella Tommila / EMMA
Pia Arke (b. 1958, Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland, d. 2007, Copenhagen, Denmark) was a Danish Greenlandic visual and performance artist, writer and photographer.
She is remembered for her self-portraits, landscape photographs of Greenland and for her paintings and writings which strive to present the complex ethnic and cultural relationships between Denmark and Greenland. In the late 1980’s Arke began to exhibit her paintings.
In 1988, the artist developed her own life-size pin-hole camera (camera obscura) which she hand-built, to photograph the landscapes of Greenland that she had known as a child. Her exhibitions and accompanying explanations encouraged Denmark to reexamine the colonial history of Greenland. Arke is now recognized as one of the Nordic region’s most important postcolonial critics and players as a result of the artistic research which she practiced for two decades.
Image courtesy Pia Arke Estate
Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe is an Indigenous Yanomami artist from Sheroana, a small community of the Upper Orinoco River in the Venezuelan Amazon. Working primarily with drawing and handmade papers crafted from native fibers, he draws from his ancestral knowledge of the signs and symbols of Yanomami culture, and their application in basketry and body painting for ritual ceremonies. While such practices are female in Yanomami culture, he has consciously recovered these motifs to build his visual lexicon. Hakihiiwe’s work is a very personal interpretation of Yanomami tradition and identity; his drawings and paintings speak to his rites and beliefs, observations of the jungle and concern for the ecosystem.
Hakihiiwe was born in Amazonas, Venezuela. He began making art in the 1990s when he met Mexican artist Laura Anderson Barbata. Barbata introduced Hakihiiwe to the practice of making paper from native plant fibres like Shiki and Abaca. Hakihiiwe began to draw and paint on the handmade paper using vegetable ink. His drawings generally depicted a range of abstract shapes, lines, or grids suggestive of the flora and fauna of the Amazon rainforest. In 1992, Hakihiiwe collaborated with Barbata to establish the Yanomami Owëmamotima Community Project. The project enabled the publication of written and illustrated books made from the collective experience of the Yanomami people.
When Hakihiiwe is in his native environment of the Amazon, he has no communication beyond his tribe’s territory. While in the rainforest, Hakihiiwe draws and sketches in a notebook, where he develops a unique system of visual communication. When he travels to Caracas, he translates his illustrations into paintings and screen-prints on fabric or paper. Hakihiiwe’s artwork is minimal and abstract, adopting a reduced colour palette. His work is often viewed as an archive in development because he makes transient cultural traditions permanent. Hakihiiwe’s work depicts patterns used in body painting and illustrates ancestral and mythological narratives from Yanomami culture.
Image courtesy Beatriz González
Sonya Kelliher-Combs is an Iñupiaq and Athabascan multidisciplinary artist based out of Anchorage, Alaska. Kelliher-Combs born in 1969 in Bethel, Alaska and was raised in the Northwest Alaska community of Nome. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Master of Fine Arts is from Arizona State University. Through her mixed media painting and sculpture, Kelliher-Combs offers a chronicle of the ongoing struggle for self-definition and identity in the Alaskan context. Her combination of shared iconography with intensely personal imagery demonstrates the generative power that each vocabulary has over the other. Similarly, her use of synthetic, organic, traditional and modern materials moves beyond oppositions between Western/Native culture, self/other and man/nature, to examine their interrelationships and interdependence while also questioning accepted notions of beauty. Kelliher-Combs’ process dialogues the relationship of her work to skin, the surface by which an individual is mediated in culture.
Kelliher-Combs’ work has been shown in numerous individual and group exhibitions in Alaska, the United States and internationally, including the national exhibition Changing Hands 2: Art without Reservation and SITELINES: Much Wider Than a Line. She is a recipient of the prestigious United States Arts Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Fellowship, Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, Rasmuson Fellowship and is a recipient of the 2005 Anchorage Mayors Arts Award and 2010 Alaska Governor’s Individual Artist Award. Her work is included in the collections of the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Anchorage Museum, Alaska State Museum, University of Alaska Museum of the North, Eiteljorg Museum, and The National Museum of the American Indian. Kelliher-Combs currently lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. As an Alaska Native artist and advocate, she has served on the Alaska Native Arts Foundation Board, Alaska State Council on the Arts Visual Arts Advisory, and the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Arts Board.
Tanya Lukin Linklater
Tanya Lukin Linklater is an Indigenous artist-choreographer of Alutiiq descent, born in 1976 in Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Tanya Lukin Linklater’s performances, works for camera, installations, and writings centre Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences, (home)lands, and structures of sustenance. Her performances in relation to objects in exhibition, scores, and ancestral belongings generate what she has come to call felt structures. She investigates insistence in both concept and application.
In 2023 Tanya Lukin Linklater will participate in soft and weak like water, the 14th Gwangju Biennale. Her work has been shown recently at Aichi Triennale, Chicago Architecture Biennial, National Gallery of Canada, New Museum Triennial, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Toronto Biennial of Art. Since 2015 her work has been shown at Art Gallery of Alberta, Art Gallery of Ontario, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, EFA Project Space + Performa, La Biennale de Montréal, Remai Modern, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and elsewhere. Her presentation of current and new works for the BMW Tate Live Exhibition, Our Bodies, Our Archives, in London was cancelled due to the pandemic. As a member of Wood Land School, she participated in Under the Mango Tree – Sites of Learning, a gathering for documenta14 in Athens and Kassel. Tanya Lukin Linklater is represented by Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.
In 2022 Tanya Lukin Linklater’s iterative solo exhibition, My mind is with the weather, opened at Oakville Galleries and is currently on view at CAG (Vancouver). In 2023 the exhibition will include additional work by Tiffany Shaw at the SAAG (Alberta). A catalogue for My mind is with the weather with contributions by Eungie Joo, Frances Loeffler, Layli Long Soldier, Tanya Lukin Linklater, and Beth Piatote will be released. Tanya has worked alongside dancers Ivanie Aubin-Malo, Ceinwen Gobert, Hanako Hoshimi-Caines, and Emily Law, among others. In recent years she has worked in relation to composer and amplified violinist, Laura Ortman, artist, Duane Linklater, and artist/curator/architect, Tiffany Shaw.
Her first collection of poetry, Slow Scrape, was published in the Documents series by The Centre for Expanded Poetics and Anteism, Montréal in 2020 with a second printing in 2021. Slow Scrape is, in the words of Layli Long Soldier, “an expansive and undulating meditation on time, relations, origin and colonization.” Slow Scrape can be read alongside Lukin Linklater’s practice as a visual artist and choreographer. She has also published in periodicals and publications by galleries.
Tanya studied at University of Alberta (M.Ed.) and Stanford University (A.B. Honours). She is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University with supervision by Dylan Robinson. In 2018 Tanya was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Wanda Koop Research Fund administered by Canadian Art. In 2019 she received the Art Writing Award from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries. In 2021 Tanya received the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for Visual Art and was long listed for the Sobey Art Award. In 2022 The Wexner Center for the Arts announced that Tanya was selected for an artist residency award with a solo exhibition planned for 2024. Her Alutiiq/Sugpiaq homelands are in southwestern Alaska where much of her family continues to live. She is a member of the Native Villages of Afognak and Port Lions in the Kodiak archipelago.
Image courtesy Tanya Lukin Linklater
Uýra Sodoma is an Indigenous Brazilian visual artist born in 1991. A graduate of Biology and Ecology, they are also part of art education in riverside communities. They reside in Manaus, an industrial territory in the middle of the Central Amazon, where they transform themself into Uýra, a manifestation in animal and plant flesh that moves to expose and cure colonial systemic diseases.
Through organic elements, using the body as a support, they embody a tree that walks and speaks through photo-performance and performance. Emerson is interested in living systems and their violations. Through the lens of diversity, dissidence, functioning and adaptation, they (re)tell natural stories, of enchantment and existing crossroads in the forest-city landscape.
Image courtesy Uýra