News / Toronto

Newest exhibit at the ROM explores the power, passion of Indigenous art

The five-month Anishinaabeg: Art and Power installation at the ROM is a celebration of how Indigenous art has evolved throughout the years.

Indigenous artist Saul Williams and two other curators have put together the Anishiaabeg: Art & Power exhibition taking place at the ROM this summer.

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Indigenous artist Saul Williams and two other curators have put together the Anishiaabeg: Art & Power exhibition taking place at the ROM this summer.

Among the hundreds of paintings Saul Williams has created, one in particular evokes childhood memories.

It portrays a woman who seems busy taking care of flowers inside a house. Williams aptly calls it White Women and their Plants.

"That's what I was taught as a young kid in school," said the artist who grew up in North Caribou Lake First Nations. "You should live like white people, and you shouldn't be Indians anymore."

House plants may have been a small detail, but Williams remembers how, even when he later moved to Toronto, seeing them reminded him of his childhood. He didn't ever have plants inside, he said, instead his house was full of tools, drawings and illustrations.

"It shows a difference between homes and people's identity. You can't change an apple to an orange," he said.

That painting is one of nearly 150 pieces assembled in a special exhibition launching this weekend at the Royal Ontario Museum. Anishinaabeg: Art and Power, explores the evolution of Indigenous art through hundreds of years of history, traditions and legends.

Williams teamed up with two other distinguished curators, Alan Corbiere and Arni Brownstone, to put the exhibit together with the goal of celebrating the power and passion of various Indigenous artists.

The paintings, drawings, textiles and sculptures in this exhibition were chosen to express themes of creation, travel, dancing and ceremony, and originated from as far as Quebec, Saskatchewan and Minneapolis.

Part of the objectives for this exhibition - which comes at a time when the city is in the midst of the reconciliation process - is to encourage young people to learn about Indigenous traditional lifestyles, said Williams.

"Being at this exhibition is like a tour of the land," he said. "We just want people in urban areas like Toronto to be aware of our values and our culture, and to respect it."

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