Skawennati


Biography

Born in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, Skawennati is a member of the turtle clan.

Her work, which has been widely shown in Canada and internationally, is collected by both private individuals and public institutions. She co-directs, along with Jason Edward Lewis, the AbTeC (Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace), a research-creation network of artists and academics who study and develop Indigenous visual environments.

In 2015, she and Lewis also launched the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) dedicated to developing visions of Indigenous peoples tomorrow. Skawennati lives and works in Montreal. She is represented by ELLEPHANT.

Artistic approach

Skawennati’s installation consists of activist avatars assembling throughout the space of the Centre de commerce mondial, with oversized textile patterns wrapping various architectural features. Called to action by the passé portrayals of Indigenous peoples as well as their almost total absence from futurist narratives, Skawennati imagines cyberpunk avatars that burst onto the scene and demand a thriving future for their communities here and now. By reinterpreting camouflage patterns, often worn by Indigenous people on reservations or during demonstrations, and the calico motifs of the ribbon shirts worn as regalia, the artist is literally occupying the shopping arcade of the Centre de commerce mondial. A conveyer of identity, these patterns are reminders of the resistance of First Nations to assimilation. The clothing worn by the avatars will become Skawennati first fashion collection, and are also a manner of counteracting the fast fashions being sold in nearby stores. She breaks with the sometimes nostalgic or folkloric representations of Indigenous people to fully bring them into the 21st century as agents of contemporary shifts and trends. Indigenous artists such as Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel have connected camouflage, activism and the Indigenous body to make fashion statements.Through this polymorphous presentation, Skawennati creates an art which takes on history and imagines these communities’ future.

Artist's artworks and activities

Words before all else. Earth