Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq is complementing its re-opening with the launch of a new exhibit that features works from Indigenous artists from opposite ends of the world, all revolving around the central theme of water.
Naadohbii: To Draw Water is the first Winnipeg Indigenous Triennial, a series of major shows that will happen every three years at WAG-Qaumajuq. Naadohbii, pronounced (NAH-DOH-BEY), hails from Anishinaabemowin language and translates as "to draw/seek water."
Naadohbii: To Draw Water will kick off with a virtual celebration through the gallery’s website on Fri., Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. Here, the curators will talk about their contributions to the show. The in-person exhibit opens on Sat., Aug. 14.
The showcase will feature multidisciplinary pieces — some newly commissioned — from more than 20 artists from Canada, Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Kimberley Moulton, senior curator at South-Eastern Aboriginal Collections at Museums Victoria, connected six First Peoples artists from across Australia with Naadohbii: To Draw Water. The works exist in the mediums of animation, painting, print making, and photography.
Like the artists she’s brought together, the exhibit’s theme: water, runs deep with Moulton.
"My people, the Yorta Yorta people, are also freshwater river people. My totem is the long neck turtle, and I have ancestral connections to the waterways of my country," she said. "Water is a connector for all humanity, along with the air we breathe. It is life, and we must respect this."
Moulton emphasized the similarities between the ongoing struggle for water protection in both Australia and Canada. She hopes the pieces will show how life and culture are inextricably linked to water, and by highlighting this, create a dialogue that connects the audience to the topic.
"Bringing the Indigenous artists from across the three countries together in conversation around what water means to each other creates a strong cultural space where the threads of Indigenous water sovereignty (are) at its core," she said.
Riva Symko is the head of collections and exhibitions and curator of Canadian art at the WAG. Naadohbii: To Draw Water’s unveiling during a time of prolonged drought in central Manitoba has made its themes even more prescient, Symko said.
"I think that we’re thinking about water in an even more direct and quotidian way this summer," she said. "It just gives (the exhibit) all that much more personal relevance to viewers who are seeing it here in Winnipeg."
Symko expects Naadohbii: To Draw Water will expand on people’s view of water as something that comes out of our tap or as something we enjoy at the beach, to an element at the root of tradition, knowledge and creativity.
"I think there’s something for Western viewers, in particular, to reflect on through these Indigenous perspectives of water that could perhaps bring us closer to understanding water as something that should be protected."
Katlyn Streilein is the reporter/photgrapher for The Metro.