There are only a few days left to see the remarkable expo at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre’s Penny Gallery titled “Tahkomiq/ Ma’kemigew” [“Lands,” in both Maliseet and Mi’kmaq languages]. It is curated by local artist Judie Acquin-Miksovsky from St. Mary’s First Nation. At a time when First Nations communities in New Brunswick are taking a clear stand to protect their land against hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as they have been doing in Elsipogtog, Acquin-Miksovsky reminds us with her title that we are on unceded native territory. This land is where the supplies for native artwork are to be found.
Acquin-Miksovsky’s approach to the expo and to her art is one that is grounded in Wabanaki spiritual traditions and customs. The common point of inspiration for all the artists is Mother Earth whose importance is fundamental to their creations. This is an idea Acquin-Miksovsky lives daily; she is a familiar face in activist circles in Fredericton for her strong positions on the inherently intertwined native and environmental issues.
This is a group expo, featuring some well-known and some lesser-known artists and artisans from New Brunswick’s Maliseet and Mi’Kmaq communities. Acquin-Miksovsky says it was difficult to convince some of her co-exhibitors to participate since they don’t always consider themselves artists. However, she is very pleased to have brought them all together, including younger artists such as Starla Dawn Hornez. Other artists participating are Terry Young, Kathy Gates, Charles Gaffney and Ron Tremblay, a Maliseet elder who was arrested in Elsipogtog last June for protesting fracking.
Acquin-Miksovsky has chosen some beautiful pieces from fellow artists and artisans, as well as a few of her own. All of the pieces presented –whether traditional or contemporary- are made using traditional materials such as leather, ash bark, beading, sweetgrass, natural dyes, and feathers.
Fredericton-based artist Tara Francis’s butterfly made of porcupine quills on a leather patch is exquisitely detailed and is only one of many treasures to be seen.
Acquin-Miksovsky is herself a trained basket-weaver who studied at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design’s in its Aboriginal Visual Arts Program. This program is “unique in Canada because of its emphasis on the traditional learning of our region.” Students are taught by artists from the region in the traditional art forms of their people.
Tahkomiq/ Ma’kemigew is available until Sept. 30, 2013 in the Penny Gallery, at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, 732 Charlotte Street, Fredericton. The expo is free.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.