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Why tackling the global industry of fake Indigenous art is like playing 'whack-a-mole' –



Unreserved44:03Copycats and copyrights of Indigenous art

You’ve probably seen Andy Everson’s work – without even knowing it. 


The K’ómoks and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw artist is the creative mind behind a popular Every Child Matters logo that’s on orange T-shirts across the country. 

“The Every Child Matters [image] is near and dear to my heart … having ancestors and relatives that went to residential schools. So I made this image available for people to use … and also for the Orange Shirt Society to be able to produce official shirts,” Everson told Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild. 

Everson had one stipulation for those using the image: that proceeds from selling items with it go back to Indigenous non-profit organizations.

Andy Everson, left, designed the logo pictured on the right, featuring four sets of hands encircling the words 'Every Child Matters' against an orange backdrop.
Andy Everson of K’ómoks First Nation, left, designed the logo pictured on the right, featuring four sets of hands encircling the words ‘Every Child Matters’ against an orange backdrop. (Kimberley Kufaas, Andy Everson)

But after the revelations of suspected unmarked burials at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia, demand for orange shirts and Every Child Matters paraphernalia skyrocketed. 

“People started to put [the image] on everything and selling it all over the place,” Everson said. Many of these sales — some of them by online businesses located overseas — were not going back to Indigenous organizations, he noted.

His experience with the Every Child Matters image is just one example of the way non-Indigenous people and businesses profit from Indigenous artists’ work.

Everson said he didn’t have the time or resources to pursue legal action. So there wasn’t much he could do to stop businesses from profiting from his work and the outpouring of support for Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

A global industry of fake Indigenous art has made it harder for Indigenous artists to make ends meet doing their work. To Indigenous artists, it’s also cultural theft. 

The industry ranges from designs copied onto apparel and home decor to carved masks and totem poles, reproduced in Asia and Eastern Europe and sold cheaply. The industry of fake Indigenous art also includes massive fraudulent art rings. 

While the problem of copycat Indigenous art has been going on for many years, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are pushing for legislative changes to protect artists’ work, and to ensure profits go back to the artists and their communities. 

‘Art fraud is big’

Sen. Patricia Bovey, the first art historian to sit in the Canadian Senate, estimates that the industry of fraudulent art costs Indigenous artists millions of dollars. 

“Art fraud is big. It comes right after issues of the illicit drug trade and firearms,” Bovey said. 

It’s important that Indigenous artists are compensated for their work, she said, adding that art collectors and consumers should get what they pay for. 

Senator Patricia Bovey is pictured at a press conference. Canadian flags sit in the background.
Patricia Bovey is using her position in the Senate raise awareness about fraudulent Indigenous art. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

On March 3, Thunder Bay police and the Ontario Provincial Police announced eight arrests following an investigation into a ring of fake Norval Morrisseau artwork. Over 1,000 paintings had sold for tens of thousands of dollars to “unsuspecting members of the public,” according to police. 

Morrisseau, the famed Anishinaabe artist who popularized vivid and colourful Woodland style art, died in 2007. 

WATCH | Arrests following investigation into Norval Morrisseau forgeries: 

Over 1,000 paintings seized, 8 people arrested in Norval Morrisseau art fraud

9 days ago

Duration 3:48

More than 1,000 paintings were seized and eight people face a total of 40 charges resulting from a years-long police investigation into the forgery of artwork by Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau.

Bovey was working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery when Morriseau and other Indigenous artists founded the Indian Group of Seven (now known as the Indigenous Group of Seven) in Winnipeg in the 1970s.

“I know that for many years, public collections have been looking very carefully at their holdings of Norval’s work to make sure they’re right, and some [fraudulent] works have been sussed out that way,” Sen. Bovey said. 

But, she added, “I think many people were duped.”

‘Everything I produce has a meaning’

Richard Hunt is a Kwagiulth carver who has been vocal about the problem of fake Indigenous art for as long as he’s been making it. 

Hunt, whose work has been replicated many times, recalls seeing an image on Facebook of one of his sun masks. 

“I was going, ‘Wow, is that ever a nice picture of my work,'” he said. “But then I realized that it was a vinyl cut-out.”

A nocarving by phoney Indigenous artist 'Harvey John' is shown at left. The artist's signature is shown at right on another piece.
In another case of fraudulent Indigenous art, gift shops, museums and art galleries in B.C. were selling works by Indigenous artist ‘Harvey John’ until it was revealed that John does not exist and the person behind the carvings isn’t Indigenous at all. (Quintana Galleries/

Hunt said there was nothing he could do. He didn’t know who had made the replicated mask or where they lived. 

“Everything I produce has a meaning,” he said. “I don’t make a mask just to make a mask. I mean, you could wear it in a ceremony. And all these other people are just in it for the money.”

Hunt wants the federal government to put costly duties on items with Indigenous designs coming into the country. He hopes this would force sellers to increase prices and, ultimately, curtail sales of these inauthentic items. 

Bovey believes border checks for art in Indigenous styles could also be a positive step. 

“The Copyright Act gives artists the rights of their work, but you have to go after the rights of your work,” she said. That requires hiring a lawyer and most artists can’t afford that expense, she added.

It’s really important that we try to keep our culture. It’s one of the last things we have left.– Richard Hunt

Bovey noted that the American Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which came into effect in the United States in the 1990s, created a fund to assist tribes and individuals with legal fees related to court proceedings. She said a similar fund would be very helpful to Indigenous artists here in Canada.

In September 2022, Bovey asked Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller how the government is addressing the issue of reproduced Indigenous art during the Senate’s question period. 

“It’s immensely frustrating to see these original pieces of art being reproduced, and correspondingly undervalued. Currently, there is not a ton of initiatives that are being undertaken to address this,” Miller said.

“I appreciate you highlighting that, and it’s something that, perhaps, can be tackled in the coming years with proper community consultation.”

Makes market more difficult for young artists

Erin Brillon says the internet has made it easy to duplicate Indigenous art. 

Brillon, a Haida and Cree artist and business owner, has seen the harm that the industry of copied art has caused her husband, Everson, and other Indigenous artists.

These companies often get shut down, but like a game of “whack-a-mole,” they’ll pop back up a week later after changing their name and web address slightly, Brillon said. 

A portrait of an Indigenous woman with long hair.
Fashion designer Erin Brillon is pictured at the Haida Now exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver. She says the issue of fraudulent art makes it more difficult for younger artists to enter the market. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The flood of items at cheap prices certainly makes it harder for young or new artists to get into the market, she said. But the industry of fake Indigenous art affects more than artists’ pocketbooks. 

“Our art has been commodified, and the people who profit the most from our artworks are not the Indigenous artist that it comes from,” Brillon continued. 

“That’s been happening since the beginning of colonization, since the time that our totem poles have been stripped out of our villages and all of our ceremonial objects have been taken from us.”

Hunt is hopeful that Bovey’s passion for the cause will make a difference. For him, it’s “now or never” to create laws that will protect Indigenous art. 

“I hope that we get the government’s ear … [and] get some response from the government in a time of reconciliation,” he said. 

“It’s really important that we try to keep our culture. It’s one of the last things we have left.”

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Micro galleries highlighting MMIWG stories aim to reconcile through knowledge and art –



When Sheila Joris stumbled upon a colourful display of books at her local Ikea store, the artwork on the fabric book covers immediately caught her eye.

What peaked her curiosity was the names of several missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) from across Canada were printed in bright gold letters on the books. 

Upon further research, the Strathroy, Ont., business owner was “astounded” to learn the number and stories of women and children whose families never heard from them again. It inspired Joris to showcase the display at the front window of her downtown store, KYIS Embroidery, to create more awareness.


“It’s just a way of me showing that I care,” she said. “Some of these families didn’t get any help to find their loved ones and I think it’s really sad. Their stories deserve to be heard.”

Joris’s shop is one of many spaces throughout the country taking part in the Canadian Library (TCL) project. A micro gallery art installation that aims to raise awareness around the MMIWG crisis. 

WATCH | Business owner Sheila Joris expresses why she cares about the stories of MMIWG:

Strathroy business owner showcases MMIWG stories in her storefront window

23 hours ago

Duration 0:46

Sheila Joris of Strathroy, Ont., shares her reaction when she found out the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the stories of families who were impacted.

“The only way we’re ever going to achieve any sort of reconciliation and break down barriers is once there’s education for everyone and it starts by having these important conversations,” said Shanta Sundarason, a Toronto-based activist leading the grassroots project. 

Since they started their efforts in October 2021, participants have collected book donations of any genre. They order fabric covers designed by Indigenous artists, each one with the name of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman or girl.

More than 8,000 books have been collected so far. Ultimately, they’ll be pooled together and displayed at a national museum or gallery by the end of this year, Sundarason said, adding that she wants them to be an educational tool to memorialize the lives lost.

It’s going to take a lot to build up trust between settlers and Indigenous people.– Shanta Sundarason, founder of TCL

Sundarason, who came to Canada from Singapore 12 years ago, felt a responsibility as an immigrant to educate herself and others on the stories of residential school survivors and the systemic discrimination that many Indigenous people still face, she said. 

“To find out that there’s so many people in a country like Canada who still don’t have clean drinking water was very horrifying and there’s been so much that’s happened to these communities,” she said.

“It’s going to take a lot to build up trust between settlers and Indigenous people who have been trying for decades to tell us the stories of what they’ve been through.”

TCL is displayed at every Ikea store in Canada, as well as at cafés and hospitals, and more recently at the York Region District School Board, Sundarason said. 

A collective step toward reconciliation, says elder

TCL has received overwhelming support from Indigenous elders. At first, many of them were skeptical of the project but eventually provided their guidance to its team, Sundarason said. 

In Calgary, TCL is spearheaded by linda manyguns, a Blackfoot woman from Siksika Nation in southern Alberta who uses only lower-case letters for her name to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.

Also Mount Royal University’s associate vice-president of Indigenization and decolonization, manyguns said she was fascinated by TCL’s inclusiveness and its ability to bring the MMIWG crisis to the forefront in a way that centres on their family members’ voices.

linda manyguns is the associate vice president of Indigenization and decolonization at Mount Royal University.
The associate vice-president of Indigenization and decolonization at Mount Royal University, linda manyguns, says she was fascinated by TCL’s inclusiveness and its ability to bring the MMIWG crisis to the forefront. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

“There’s a huge chasm of emptiness between the Canadian society in general and the Indigenous experience,” she said.

“People need to understand that these are not bad women — they’re just encased in a social context that’s been created due to the colonial perspectives and placements of Aboriginal people and as a result, it puts them in situations which make them vulnerable.”

TCL creates a place for the MMIWG’s memories to live, while also giving Indigenous artists a platform to shine since the artwork attracts all kinds of people, manyguns said.

“It’s a collective step toward reconciliation because it’s an an ethical third space where people can come together to work together and create new frontiers. The only way that we can make change is through knowledge.”

She hopes TCL can motivate enough people to come together and create change so more names aren’t added to the list of missing Indigenous women and girls.

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Previously unreleased concept art shows more of the delayed Mary Poppins ride planned for EPCOT at Walt Disney … –



A former Walt Disney Imagineer has posted concept art for the postponed Mary Poppins ride that was previously announced for EPCOT.

Unreleased Mary Poppins ride system concept art

The new art shows an overhead plan view of the attraction, including the preshow area, the ride system, and the exit.

Unreleased Mary Poppins ride system concept art

As speculated at the time of the ride’s announcement, the ride is a teacup-style spinning flat ride, taking place in a show building with decorated backgrounds.

Unreleased Mary Poppins ride system concept art

Announced at the 2019 D23 EXPO, the expansion to the United Kingdom pavilion was to add an entirely new neighborhood at the pavilion, complete with a ride. In the plans, guests would step in time down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom’s house, then enter Number 17, home of the Banks family, where their adventure would begin.

Disney officially announced that the United Kingdom Pavilion expansion was paused in July 2020 as the park reopened from the COVID-19 shutdown. In addition to pausing Mary Poppins, Disney also put a halt to the Spaceship Earth update.

Mary Poppins attraction poster and concept art

The last official comment on the Mary Poppins ride for EPCOT came from then Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who said in response to a question at the 2022 Shareholder Meeting, that the project is in a holding pattern currently, but looks forward to refunding the Mary Poppins ride in the future.

A lot has changed at Disney since then, and it remains to be seen if the Mary Poppins expansion at the United Kingdom pavilion in EPCOT will be built.

Mary Poppins attraction poster and concept art

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Security guard, schoolgirl, Snow White … the artist who films herself undercover – The Guardian



What to do if a new colleague is over touchy feely when they greet you in the office? Or if a trainee sits staring into space all day doing “brain work”? Finnish artist Pilvi Takala specialises in orchestrating such awkward situations, in a mission to test how we navigate social conventions. “I think discomfort is a very productive space,” she says when we speak on Zoom before a show of her video installations, aptly titled On Discomfort. “It’s where we reassess and negotiate norms.”

Wearing a disguise and an assumed identity, Takala has upset the workings of theme parks, corporations, shopping malls and even the European parliament, exposing the tacit rules that govern our capitalist system. The videos of her in action are often funny. In Real Snow White, she tries and fails to get into Disneyland Paris dressed as the cartoon character. A guard says: “You cannot go to the park like this because the children will think you are Snow White. There’s a real Snow White in the park.” Takala replies: “I thought the real Snow White was a drawing.”

But Takala’s performances, videos and installations are underpinned by serious social inquiry. Her practice explores the shifting fault lines of what is considered acceptable behaviour and why, from the perspective of insider and outsider. In 2018’s The Stroker, where she pretended to be a wellness consultant at Second Home, a hip Hackney co-workplace for entrepreneurs, people were clearly conflicted about whether they were entitled to find her touchy greetings invasive; they increasingly gave her a wide berth as she passed. For 2008’s The Trainee, Takala was an intern for a month at the consulting firm Deloitte, where her apparent inaction – spending entire days either “thinking” or just going up and down in the lift – made her co-workers angry and frustrated, even though they themselves were frequently going through the motions of working while in fact browsing the internet. Both films reveal a progression of behavioural responses by workers who soon find non-conformity threatening and “weird”. “It’s very human to create these strict normative systems that we all follow and we feel in a way good when we’re inside,” says Takala, “but of course it’s mega oppressive.”


The artist’s performative interventions have become more complex over the past two decades. Where her early works often consisted of films of one-off performances, she has subsequently experimented with hidden cameras and re-enactment of actions that have taken place over days or weeks. Last year’s ambitious multi-channel video installation Close Watch was the result of six months working under cover as a security guard for Securitas at one of Finland’s biggest shopping malls. Presented at the Finnish pavilion for the 2022 Venice Biennale, it reflected on the opaque parameters of authority exercised by private companies over citizens. The films are presented in two rooms separated by a one-way police mirror, emphasising the unequal power dynamic of our surveilled existence.

Close Watch

Takala’s role at Securitas required four weeks of training. She was eventually outed two weeks before the end of her stint by colleagues who had Googled her. After she finished at the firm, Takala invited her former workmates to join her in workshops with specialised actors to role play problematic issues she had encountered on the job. The films of these workshops form the gripping centrepiece of the installation, showing the guards acting out and debating scenarios involving the use of excessive force by a colleague, toxic masculinity in the control room and the casual ubiquity of racist jokes.

In one particularly disturbing sequence, the group watches three actors re-enact a situation in which a guard manhandles a drunk member of public. In a lively discussion afterward, the guards are pretty much unanimous that loyalty to colleagues would take precedence over pursuing justice for a victim. But as they rationalise and wrestle with these dilemmas and their own accountability, they take on board different views. “We’re allowed to interfere with other people’s basic rights,” concedes one guard, adding, “It’s frighteningly easy to abuse. I’ve seen people work in this field only to hurt others.”

Observing this open dialogue within the safe space of the workshops is partly what makes Close Watch so powerful and moving; it feels like a constructive template for addressing similar problems in society at large, rather than simply rehashing well-worn criticisms of the underpaid and under-regulated security industry. That said, Takala hopes her work will have an impact on guarding at Securitas. “It’s not like we change everything and it’s happy ever after,” she says. “But I wanted to engage with this industry from a hopeful place.” The company has since instituted diversity and unconscious bias training for all employees, which may or may not be a result of suggestions she made after working there.

Takala’s infiltration of social communities began in 2004 while on an exchange at the Glasgow School of Art. She was struck by the coexistence of two self-contained groups – that of the Glasgow art students and that of the nearby Catholic girls’ school – whose different attire created a glass wall between them. She decided to investigate what would happen if she donned the school uniform, effectively switching tribes. “There’s a lot of heavy taboos hanging over this uniform, even though I wasn’t doing anything illegal or, to me, ethically problematic,” she says. Suddenly she found she was accepted by the pupils and ignored by her fellow art students. “I had the wrong dress code, I was invisible,” she explains. Her ruse was discovered when a teacher told her off for wearing the wrong scarf. The Glasgow School of Art was furious and failed her paper, but Takala remained adamant that the strong response to her action proved its success.

Since then Takala has put numerous social groupings under the microscope: she has played an overdressed wallflower at a traditional dance event in Estonia; carried a transparent bag full of cash around a shopping mall – to the consternation of shoppers and shopkeepers alike – and wandered around the European parliament in T-shirts printed with texts highlighting the institution’s inconsistent dress policy.

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Does she ever get embarrassed? “I have those same feelings as anybody would in those situations, but they’re actually information for me that it’s working,” Takala says. Her social experiments involve intense emotional labour – “I get a lot of rejection,” she notes. But it’s exhilarating when she senses that something is working: “I feel like it’s very awkward. These people don’t like what I’m doing now. Great!”

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