By Omar Linares
Although Emily Carr University is named after a first nation’s artist, it has taken a while before any official celebration of the aboriginal culture has taken place; thus Brenda Crabtree, Aboriginal Program Manager, has reason to highlight the historical importance that the Emily Carr administration suspends classes and hosts A Celebration of Resilience on Friday 20, as part of the national Reconciliation Week (18 to 21 of September). The series of events run along the NET-ETH: Going out of Darkness exhibition at the school’s concourse gallery.
NET-ETH: Going out of the Darkness is presented in tandem with Malaspina Printmakers and has several locations; furthermore, despite that the show was not curated by students, its art work is. It is art that expresses the terror of residential schools and the historical adversity faced by first nations peoples in Canada; indeed, to participate in the exhibition it was necessary to have first nation ancestry. Additionally, as part of the exhibition informative displays in the library and the foundation hall tell of the history and oppression first nations have faced.
This belief in the importance of education is shared by Crabtree as when she describes it as “a path to the economic independence” of first nation peoples. The Aboriginal Office she manages at ECU has this aim in its assistance to the wide diversity of aboriginal students, who have seen an increase in their population and permanence at school, going from around 12 in 1998 to 76 in 2013. This aid is not limited to social concerns, besides providing a place to gather and share a common heritage, the Aboriginal Gathering Place also grants access to traditional first nations media not always available in the school; this permits the students to engage in weaving, drum making, and carving among other traditional art forms, a service that reaches beyond individual artistic development and contributes to the continuity of first nation’s cultural expressions.
It comes as no surprise then that Friday’s speakers count with two renowned first nation artists: Sonny Assu, well known for his blend of mass consumer culture and text with aboriginal themes (for instance his, Coke Salish use of the Coca Cola font); and Dempsey Abbey, a master carver who remains a cultural leader in his home community while he explores non-traditional materials like bronze. Both speakers and other events will be broadcasted live.
Although the Aboriginal Office has no plans for other events after Reconciliation Week, the promotion of contemporary first nation’s artists and the space provided for first nation’s students to gather, practice their expressive heritage, and reach out to the community continue to increase awareness of the first inhabitants of Canada.
The program for this Friday’s events is available at:
For more events outside of Emily Carr visit Reconciliation Canada’s website at:
Full program available at Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s website: