Olivia Whetung | inawendiwok, guest curated by Mona Filip.
A member of Curve Lake First Nation and citizen of the Nishnaabeg Nation, artist Olivia Whetung draws upon her experience working on and with the land to create artworks that speak of the interdependence and relationality within our ecosystem.
Researching land-based and food de-commodifying movements, Anishinaabe knowledge, and the ecology of her home territory, Whetung has produced a series of sculptural installations, digital prints, and three-dimensional beadworks that articulate the vital connectivity between woodland, wetland, and garden environments. The artist’s first-hand observations are nourished by a critical understanding of Western agricultural models and natural science methodologies as detrimental to the ecologies of Southern Ontario, where they have caused massive environmental destruction. Western worldviews, brought over by European settlers, treat only cleared farmland as “productive” while deeming woodland and wetland unmanageable and useless. These outlooks centre human needs and desires at the expense of the ecosystem’s survival.
Whetung’s poignant works solicit our attention and reconsideration of spaces and species that are crucial to biodiversity and to sustainable food production. Tenderly foregrounding our more-than-human neighbours, they remind us that we are not the only ones to benefit from the land’s gifts, nor to suffer from ecological ruin. The exhibition’s Anishinaabemowin title, inawendiwok, loosely translates as “they are related to each other,” emphasizing the ways in which coexistence within the ecosystem is mutually linked. With human yearning for endlessly available resources and sanitized nature comes devastating loss. Only through a renewed understanding of kinship and gratitude may we restore an ecology based on responsibility and reciprocity that can sustain the future.
Funding for the Art Gallery of Mississauga is generously provided by the City of Mississauga, the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Rama Gaming House and Charitable Gaming Community Good.