Exhibition presented by the CIAC MTL at CDEx, UQAM, 405 Saint-Catherine East Street (at the Saint-Denis street corner), Montreal, Room J-R940, from August 5th to 21st 2019, 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
The works from Naked Napi, by Adrian Stimson, were first shown at the SUM Gallery in Vancouver in 2018, Edmonton Art Gallery in 2019 and Paul Petro Contemporary Art in Toronto in June-July of that year. “As natives, our existence is political in this country. All my life, I’ve been exposed to racism in this country and fought its scourge since childhood”, says Stimson. Two-Spirit people, he believes, are fighting the same fight as the bison 150 years ago. “Buffalo Boy”, a nickname adopted by Stimson, is the character he plays in many of his works.
Photos © Guy L’Heureux
ADRIAN STIMSON TELLS HIS STORY:
During my MFA at the University of Saskatchewan, I wrote a paper called “Too Two-Spirited for you; the absence and presence of Two-Spirit people in Western Culture and Media”. Part of the research was going back in history to the earliest meetings between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to see if there were any depictions of Two-Spirit people.
Of many artists Theodore De Bry stands out. De Bry who never visited the Americas, created a number of etchings for books, illustrating various meetings between conquistadors and indigenous populations as well as depictions of indigenous life. These depictions were based on firsthand accounts, highly stylized and detailed and often-portrayed violent acts toward the indigenous population reinforcing the colonial conquest narrative.
De Bry’s images are evidence of the diversity of sexuality in the America’s pre-contact; they prove that for the colonizers, indigenous sexuality was to be feared, conquered or destroyed. Sadly as De Bry’s etchings prove many “sodomites” were put to their death, thus pushing underground or eradicating Two Spirited being, sexuality and ceremony. Western Christian morality was not compatible with many of America’s indigenous populations, a systemic process of eradicating indigenous ways of being was put into place; Indian Wars, starvation, diseased blankets, aggressive assimilation, residential schools were some of the many racist policies implemented and continue in our times.
Historically, indigenous peoples were sexual and were not ashamed of sex or their bodies. Nudity was normal, the human body was a part of nature and in observing nature, sexuality was diverse and to be celebrated.
For the Blackfoot, a lot of our stories have sexual content, sex and sexuality was often interwoven within the language. A cultural worker friend of mine who was in charge of recording elders many years ago, told me how funny it was to translate the recordings of the elder women, she said, “it was like being in a men’s locker room”, the descriptive, unapologetic and funny use of sexuality within the language demonstrates that we were not afraid of our sexuality nor western morally, we are not bound to western ideas of piety, shame and fear of sex and sexual diversity. Yet the damage has been done and now, it is our right and duty to reclaim our sexual histories. I hope through this series of paintings to trigger people, to help them understand and accept our ways of life. To be Napi and create stories for our time and Two-Spirited being.