By Amanda Wilson, August 23 2022—
The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary has been a haven for those looking to find a natural escape within the inner city since 1929. The sanctuary is on the traditional Treaty 7 Territory, and land of Moh’kinstis (Calgary) — whose name translates to “elbow” to signify the Elbow River.
The Land is Home project was made possible by funding from an Alberta Environment Parks Grant and Calgary Parks. The exhibition was created as an effort to highlight Indigenous artists but also to assist Calgarians in seeing nature from a new perspective and understand Indigenous peoples’ connection to the land. The exhibitions are seasonally themed and rotate each quarter to display new art pieces.
The summer exhibition “Divine Feminine” features the works of Hali Heavy Shield of the Kainai First Nations, Zoe Buckskin from the Treaty 7, Blood Reserve and Kelsey Twoyoungmen of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.
As I first entered the visitors centre I noticed the walls decorated with the art of this quarter’s artists. They had perfectly complemented the centre’s permanent displays that provide insight into the wildlife and flora that reside within the sanctuary.
Heavy Shield is a multidisciplinary artist and her works displayed were created with paint and photographs. In her artist statement she said that these pieces “reference the iconic buffalo/bison.” The buffalo was chosen as the prominent symbol in this collection because of their necessity to Indigenous lifestyles. Indigenous women had utilised the buffalo parts to craft hides and clothing that were used for regalia. I had found that the intricate placement of geometric patterns fantastically reflect the delicate work that is put into Indigenous clothing.
Buckskin described her work as a reflection of her connection to the land, and she illustrates this through flowing organic shapes and traditional colours. Buckskin pulls from the artistic traditions of her Blackfoot heritage by utilising patterns, materials and techniques that are inspired by Blackfoot artefacts. Her painting “Views” and sculpture “Home” use fluid linework to express the spiritual connection that she holds to the land. Her piece “Divine Feminine” illustrates the delicacy of feminine connection to the land through a capillary-like riverway gently oozing from a central lake, that is also reminiscent of a woman. It effectively reminds me of the nurture within nature.
Twoyoungmen had used a modern medium to illustrate her connection to the land and the resilience of Indigenous women. She has reinterpretted the famous “We Can Do It!” poster with an Indigenous take — stating “You are Resilient!” This piece features an Indigenous woman wearing traditional face paint along with a beaded necklace and earrings. The woman also has three lines tattooed on her chin which symbolises maturity. While the woman flexes her arm, her other hand is holding a feather which is known to represent a connection between the creator and the holder of the feather.
The summer exhibition of “Divine Feminine” intertwines the significance of the natural world along with the potency of femininity. Each piece deeply conveys each artist’s connection to the land, and how it is felt from the perspective of an Indigenous woman.
You can experience the “Divine Feminine” exhibition until September 29 at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.