Dylan Miner’s art communicates indigenous themes on an international scale
“My people will sleep for 100 years but when they awake it will be the artists that give them back their spirit.” –Louis Riel, Métis
Louis Riel, a famous activist and leader of the Métis people of Canada in the late 1800’s would probably like Dylan Miner’s art if he was alive to see it today. Before he was executed in 1885, Riel spoke these words, at a time when his people were struggling to maintain their land bases and rights to sovereignty in both the United States and Canada. Miner, a Métis artist and activist feels that this statement foreshadowed his people’s cultural and artistic resurrection, which has been growing since the 1970’s and 80’s, around 100 years after Riel’s death.
A Métis in Sámpi
Miner and his wife, activist and professor Estrella Torrez, traveled to Tromsø last week for the opening of his art show entitled NÁGGÁRVUOĐAS, BEALUŠTUSSAN IN DEFIANCE, IN DEFENSE at the gallery Small Projects. Miner is no stranger to international travel and collaboration with other indigenous artists. He says of his art: “It’s about drawing lines of solidarity between indigenous communities, often on national as well as global levels.”
Miner began his career as a printmaker. His pieces often include text and the images are sometimes printed as large as billboards. However, he describes his work as having developed into the art of social practice: Miner now facilitates community collaborations and presents his projects as installations. Miner’s art-activism has a strong focus on indigenous youth. One example was titled ‘Anishnaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag: Native Kids Ride Bikes’ in which urban indigenous youth built low rider bicycles. The project took months to complete and Miner brought Native American elders to the groups who taught the kids about sustainability and traditional forms of transportation, as well as some of their indigenous language. ‘Native Kids Ride Bikes’ was a collaboration: between youth and elders, between contemporary and traditional, between the present and the past, and between Miner and members of his community. And it is this type of collaboration that Miner was interested in bringing to Tromsø.
Different peoples; similar issues
While the history of the Métis, and other tribes of the United States and Canada are quite different from that of the Sami in Northern Norway, Miner feels that indigenous peoples around the world share many similar experiences, especially regarding the acknowledgement and appreciation of their cultures in contemporary societies. Miner’s work for the Tromsø show at Small Projects addresses these similarities through the use of the Northern Sami language, and the current struggles of the Sami to have their language officially recognized by Troms county. Miner has silk screened a number of phrases and words on felt, some in English and some in Sami. “They let the wolf into the laavo” written in English and “in defiance, in defense” translated into Sami, as well as other phrases and pieces, adorn the walls of the Small Projects gallery, creating an installation which Miner hopes will showcase the similarities between indigenous peoples around the globe.
Miner’s trip to Tromsø included talks at the Art Academy and at Ardna, the Sami-inspired house on campus for a group of Indigenous Studies Master’s students, as well as a workshop at Small Projects which introduced young Norwegian students to screen printing. The show’s opening at Small Projects drew people from all walks of Tromsø society, both indigenous and non-indigenous. Miner and his wife hope to return to Sámpi to continue the dialogue, the art, and the activism. After all, Sami kids ride bikes too!
NÁGGÁRVUOĐAS, BEALUŠTUSSAN IN DEFIANCE, IN DEFENSE
On exhibition at Small Projects gallery Grønnegata 23 until Feburary 26
In collaboration with NABROAD
More information on Dylan Miner available at http://www.nabroad.org/in-defiance-in-defence.html