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Sydney art centre hosts Mi'kmaq artists competition –




The Convent will soon honour seven Unama’ki artists.

“One of the main goals is to strengthen and honour the relationship to Mi’kmaq people here in Unama’ki,” said Melissa Kearney, programming co-ordinator for The Convent, an art and cultural centre in downtown Sydney.

The Convent, located on what was Holy Angels property and is now part of the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation, features a variety of disciplines hoping to encourage artists’ creativity and spark a bond with the general public.

The COVID-19 pandemic set back the studio’s grand opening plans, but Kearney says they remain committed to fostering a relationship with the Mi’kmaq.

“We were all determined to see it happen and knew it was going to happen without a doubt,” said Kearney.

The Convent team is also working with a Mi’kmaq design team to help Indigenize the space. But the most recent project, the Kisitwek Gallery, hopes to select seven Mi’kmaq artists with the help of an elders advisory committee.

Robert Bernard is the program co-ordinator with Kisitwek Gallery and each Unama’ki community — Membertou, Wagmatcook, We’koqma’q, Potlotek and Eskasoni First Nations — is represented by an elder.

“We hope to share the Mi’kmaq story and culture,” said Bernard.

The competition is accepting submissions until Friday, Sept. 11 at midnight. The submissions can be based on a variety of art forms from vocal artists, visual artists and crafters, among others.


Bernard says the work will be judged on the level of professionalism, talent and what the artist means to their respective home communities. He says as part of the application they encourage testimonials about the artist from community members.

Kisitwek Gallery will celebrate the artists just as much as their work.

Bernard said the gallery will feature a short biography of the artist and a visual aspect of that artist. Families of a deceased artist can apply and if selected will work with the team to best honour that artist.

Bernard said another aspect of the project will be the workshops which will be hosted by the artists.

“They’ll have their own programming, outlining their own style and life’s work,” said Bernard, adding the plan is to highlight these artists while educating others about their work.

Bernard stressed participating artists must be Mi’kmaq and authenticity will be part of the scoring process. The applying artists will be scored on a scaled system considering the artwork, the testimonials, the authenticity and overall, what the artists means to community.

Bernard expects the judging to take a couple of weeks.

The project is also working with New Dawn Enterprises, Indigenous guide engagement services and Patuo’kn Illustration and Design.

Those wishing to apply can contact The Convent or apply online while remembering the initiative is all about honouring the Mi’kmaq.

“We are the first artists and crafters of this land,” said Bernard.

After the first cohort of strictly Unama’ki artists, there are plans to expand to include all Mi’kma’ki.


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Embrace Life Council seeks artists for mental health art contest – Nunavut News



Embrace Life Council is holding a mental health art contest for Nunavummiut aged 5 to 18.

“The aim of it is to create art that we’re hoping will inspire healthy living,” said Nastassja Fraser, a volunteer for the organization. It will also provide children and youth opportunities to explore their creativity while helping others.

The cover from the 2020 Embrace Life Council’s 2020 calendar. photo courtesy of Nastassja Fraser

Children aged 5 to 13 are encouraged to submit drawings or paintings focusing on physical health, while those between 14 to 18 years of age can submit artwork reflecting mental health.

Judges will be evaluating the artwork based on the “artist’s interpretation and ability to visually communicate a message of healthy living,” said Fraser. She added that creativity, technical skill and general craftsmanship will also be evaluated.

The judges are “really just looking for kind of an insightful way of portraying whichever theme it is they choose to address,” explained Fraser.

Twelve winners will be selected: nine from the children category and three from the youth category. The winning artworks will be displayed in the Embrace Life Council’s 2021 calendar.

Winners will be announced on Oct. 16 after the Oct. 10 deadline. Submissions can be mailed or dropped off at the Embrace Life Council in Iqaluit. For more information contact Elisapee Johnston at or call 867-975-3233 ext. 223.


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MUSE NEWS: Highlighting the new Douglas Family Art Centre – The Kingston Whig-Standard



Let me introduce you to the Douglas Family Art Centre, a new addition to Kenora. Come visit us downtown across Memorial Park from the Lake of the Woods Museum. The building incorporates the former land titles building with a new addition. It was designed by Nelson Architecture and built by Solid Construction; both local companies. The space is gorgeous. Inspired by the old building and the natural elements of our region the Art Centre is a vibrant place that engages the senses and the mind.

My role as curator is to manage the selection and interpretation of art on display. There are two gallery spaces that present art exhibitions from regional, provincial and national artists. The main room of the former land titles building is a grand studio space where creatives of all ages and abilities make art in classes and workshops presented by Shelby Smith, the art centre programmer and/or visiting artists. There is a library for anyone curious or interested in anything art. Take a book out or enjoy one of the two lounges on the second floor. There is a multipurpose room for rent that is glowing with natural light and has a full kitchen. The MUSE shop features artwork from local artists and vendors as well as carefully selected creative gifts. There is artwork throughout the building as well, wood and bronze sculpture, photography and colour woodblock prints. If you are one who enjoys geology you will love the fossils in the Tyndall stone used in the interior and exterior of the building.

Exhibitions are displayed for three to four months. Currently on display are two exhibitions. “21 Pillows” is by award-winning Red Lake glass artist Cheryl Wilson-Smith. Wilson-Smith has hand-made over 10,000 glass stones, her interpretation of a moraine found north of Red Lake. You have never seen glass like this! Visitors are encouraged to touch and move any or all of the stones and pillows as you are inspired, leaving your trace on the landscape.

“To realize by moving a rock, throwing a stone in the water, [you are] altering the environment. So in my show, by moving the stones we are all altering the environment, for better or worse, we are all participating,” Wilson-Smith said of her exhibit.

“From The Vault” is an exhibition curated from the collection of the Lake of the Woods Museum. Many of the artworks have never been displayed before. Each piece tells many stories, about the period in which it was created, the life of the artist, or the lives of the many people who owned it. This exhibition features artwork important to this community donated by private and public collections. There are some mysteries on the walls we need your help with! Some artwork keeps its secrets close.

This fall, Shelby Smith is hosting three 10-week classes for children and teens. These classes are after school and explore many ways of making art. Spots are filling up! On Oct. 1 the Douglas Family Art Centre is partnering with Science North to present an artist talk with Cheryl Wilson-Smith at lunch and a fossil hunt later in the afternoon. On Sept. 24 Kris Goold hosted a sold-out workshop but it looks like Kris will offer another class so book your spot! If you’re missing out keep an eye on our website or become a member to get a heads up on the exciting things that are happening at the Douglas Family Art Centre.

If you haven’t been in yet, come down and take it in. The art centre is your place to discover and enjoy. We look forward to seeing you.

Sophie Lavoie is the curator at the Douglas Family Art Centre.

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France’s Colonial Legacy Is Being Judged in Trial Over African Art – The New York Times



PARIS — Wearing a long, white tunic with the names of two African ethnic groups written on it, the defendant stepped forward to the bar, took a breath, and launched into a plea.

“No one has sought to find out what harm has been done to Africa,” said the defendant, Mwazulu Diyabanza, a Congo-born 41-year-old activist and spokesman for a Pan-African movement that denounces colonialism and cultural expropriation.

Mr. Diyabanza, along with four associates, stood accused of attempting to steal a 19th-century African funeral pole from the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in mid-June, as part of an action to protest colonial-era cultural theft and seek reparations.

But it was Wednesday’s emotionally charged trial that gave real resonance to Mr. Diyabanza’s struggle, as a symbolic defendant was called to the stand: France, and its colonial track record.

The presiding judge in charge of the case acknowledged the two trials: One, judging the group, four men and a woman, on a charge of attempted theft for which they could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of about $173,000.

“And another trial, that of the history of Europe, of France with Africa, the trial of colonialism, the trial of the misappropriation of the cultural heritage of nations,” the judge told the court, adding that such was a “citizen’s trial, not a judicial one.”

The political and historical ramifications were hard to avoid.

France’s vast trove of African heritage — it is estimated that some 90,000 sub-Saharan African cultural objects are held in French museums — was largely acquired under colonial times, and many of these artworks were looted or acquired under dubious circumstances. That has put France at the center of a debate on the restitution of colonial-era holdings to their countries of origin.

Unlike in Germany, where this debate has been welcomed by both the government and museums, France has struggled to offer a consistent response, just as the country is facing a difficult reckoning with its past.

“Our act aimed to erase the acts of indignity and disrespect of those who plundered our homes,” Mr. Diyabanza said.

Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

The restitution debate came to a head in France when President Emmanuel Macron promised in 2017 to give back much of Africa’s heritage held by French museums. He later commissioned a report that identified about two-thirds of the 70,000 objects at the Quai Branly Museum as qualifying for restitution.

But in the two years following the report, only 27 restitutions have been announced and only one object, a traditional sword, has been returned — to Senegal, in November 2019. The remaining 26 treasures that were designated for restitution, to Benin, are still in the Quai Branly Museum.

And the bill supporting these exceptional, or case-by-case, restitutions has yet to be voted on.

Calvin Job, the lawyer for three of the defendants, said in court that the bill, by focusing on exceptional rather than regular restitutions, reflected “a desire not to settle the issue.”

“We should enshrine the principle of restitution in the code of law,” Mr. Job said.

Given what they perceive as hurdles, activists from Mr. Diyabanza’s Pan-African movement have staged operations similar to that in Paris at African art museums in the Southern French city of Marseille and in Berg en Dal, in the Netherlands.

At times, these actions have epitomized growing identity-related claims, coming from French citizens of African descent living in a country where a racial awakening has started to take place in recent months.

“We have young people who have an identity problem,” Mr. Job said in an interview, “who, faced with a lack of action, a lack of political will, have found it legitimate to do the work that others don’t.”

Speaking to the judge, Julie Djaka, a 34-year-old defendant who grew up in a Congolese family, said: “For you, these are works. For us, these are entities, ritual objects that maintained the order at home, in our villages in Africa, that enabled us to do justice.”

Marie-Cécile Zinsou, the president of the Zinsou Art Foundation in Benin and the daughter of a former prime minister of Benin, said that, although she did not share the activists’ methods, she understands “why they exist.” “We cannot be ignored and looked upon down all the time,” she said.

“In France, there’s a post-colonial view on the African continent,” Ms. Zinsou added, saying that some prominent French cultural figures still doubted that African countries could preserve artworks.

Such grievances on France’s post-colonial legacy were in full play on Wednesday at the trial as a small crowd of about 50 people, most Pan-African movement activists, were barred from entering the courtroom by the police because of concerns about the coronavirus and because some feared that their presence could disrupt the trial.

Activists shouted “band of thieves” and “slavers” at the police officers cordoning off the entrance to the courtroom and they chanted, “Give us back our artwork!”

Prosecutors on Wednesday asked that a fine of 1,000 euros, or about $1,200, be levied against Mr. Diyabanza and a suspended €500 fine be levied against his associates. A verdict is expected on Oct. 14.

Activists in front of the courtroom on Wednesday welcomed the recommended sentences, which they found modest, as a collective victory.

“We all are defendants here; all of us should normally be at the stand today,” said Laetitia Babin, a 45-year-old social worker born in Congo, who had arrived from Belgium in the morning to attend the trial.

“It’s not up to them to decide how artworks are returned to us, it’s up to us,” she said.

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