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Greetings from Canada at RM Gallery

The phrase ‘time is of the essence’ is something I have difficulty understanding. I heard it a lot during my time at university. I understood this saying to typify western constructs of time, to signify the idea of time as the byproduct of all things. However, to my brown skin and my cosmic being I understand a different kind of time. The phrase ‘island time’ has always been important within my family. If a family function started at 12pm it would mean the function would start at 1pm real time.

You might be thinking what does that even mean? Well, if something doesn’t feel right, then it will cease to occur, unless all the cosmos is succinct within oneself, and it is only then, things will begin.

People might think island time is funny, stupid or unprofessional, but that’s not true. It is something beautiful that all Islanders will inevitably intuitively share with others (only when the time is right, I might add).

It has been three weeks since I was asked to write a review for an exhibition and since then I‘ve become busy with various jobs taking up my time. You might be asking “Why now?” My answer is “Well, why not?”

*****

Greetings from Canada was a solo exhibition by artist and curator Cora-Allan Wickliffe, shown at RM gallery, from 26 October to 12 November. I received an email invite from RM gallery with the beautiful writing of Wickliffe’s time in Banff. She told a story of meeting an old native man from the Buffalo Museum who had never met a Māori person. He gifted Wickliffe a necklace and said “I’ve never had a Māori granddaughter before, you can call me Mohsum it means grandfather.” Reading that memory was humbling. Immediately I felt connected.

Within the Banff inspired exhibition there is a mixed-media installation work that shares the exhibition title, Greetings from Canada, 2016. The work includes a fridge with postcards. The postcards have images of Aboriginal children and people with red coloured text saying Greetings from Canada. One postcard that is still vivid in my memory is an image of a child who is in their native costume and the other is dressed in western attire.

The fridge reminded me of my family’s fridge, outdated and full of magnets and stickers. The family fridge for us, is a proud display board where certificates, drawings and family recipes are shared for extended family and friends to acknowledge and talk about. This fridge was Wickliffe’s mothers.

Along the gallery wall there was another mixed-media installation, this time titled, My Culture is not a Costume, 2016. White t-shirts hung with printed statements designed in blocks of black and white coloured fonts. One t-shirt said “WE WORE THEIR CLOTHES, THEY CUT OUR HAIR, SPEAKING ONLY ENGLISH.” These statements, reminded me of my parents and their struggle leaving their motherlands of Tonga and Samoa for the promise of a good life within Aotearoa. The t-shirts non-verbally communicate the pain of indigenous people being forced to discard their cultures in order to adapt and survive within the western system.

Indigenous artist residency manifesto, 2016 is a black picture frame, and in it a piece of white paper with the title INDIGENOUS ARTIST MANIFESTO. On the sheet there are twenty statements. Wickliffe had spent two years working at the Banff Centre where she had found this same list on a door within the gallery. She shared with me how she found this working document and decided to bring this back to Aotearoa. It is displayed in the exact same way as the artist originally encountered it. Two statements that stuck with me during my time in the exhibition were 18 and 19.

#18 Our work shall not be appropriated

#19 We as people shall not be appropriated

I felt empowered from this manifesto. It is hopeful of the type of support institutions can offer, why do we not see more of these?

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Towards the RM Gallery windows there is Drawn to Nature, 2016. This installation and performance consists of two easel’s and a performance on the opening night in collaboration with Pilimi Manu and Makahn Warren-Chapman. This work speaks to a kind of collaborative art practice which Wickliffe has established both in Banff as well as here in Aotearoa.

On the opening night Manu and Warren-Chapman both stood and sat behind their own easels, drawing from a 360 virtual image of a landscape from Banff by wearing a virtual reality headset. Wickliffe drew on the origins of the Banff Centre, with its history in life drawing. Communicating with friends back in Banff they choose the location and Wickliffe asked them to send the image. Manu, a close friend (who has studied Visual Arts with Wickliffe) drew this landscape using a drawing ink pen. Warren-Chapman who is a relative to Wickliffe’s partner (and who is also studying Visual Arts) used charcoal on paper.

Both these artists come from different backgrounds, one is native to Turtle Island and the other is of Pacific decent. There is a sense of understanding, dislocation and connection through the realisation of the landscape.

In retrospect, I find my memories of this exhibition becoming increasingly cemented in reality. Wickliffe’s Greetings from Canada is an exhibition, which brings forth the structures within art institutions that manage indigenous knowledge.

Salome Tanuvasa

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