Eshi uapatakau ishkueuatsh tshitassinu / Regards de femmes sur le territoire

Curator: Sonia Robertson

Artists: Marie-Andrée Gill, Sophie Kurtness, Soleil Launière

Guide: Caroline Nepton Hotte

February 10, 2023 - April 1, 2023

Opening: February 9, 2023, 5:30 pm

Galerie de l’UQAM presents the group exhibition Eshi uapatakau ishkueuatsh tshitassinu / Regards de femmes sur le territoire, which brings together the work of three women artists from the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation of Mashteuiatsh, in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. The land—in both its material and intangible form—is central to the project as a promise of a better life and a place of knowledge transfer, connection, and healing intrinsically connected to identity.

The exhibition

Eshi uapatakau ishkueuatsh tshitassinu / Regards de femmes sur le territoire presents three installations created during the 2021–2022 residency program at Le LOBE artist-run centre in Chicoutimi. Marie-Andrée Gill’s Céline Kushpu, Sophie Kurtness’s Takuneu, porter la vie, and Soleil Launière’s Ninanamapalin / Mon corps tremble were made while the artists were each in residence for the period of one month. Guided by curator Sonia Robertson and accompanied by Caroline Nepton Hotte, a professor in the Department of Art History at UQAM, the artists—who work in various artistic fields such as literature, visual arts, and theatre—contributed to the overall thinking of the project, which examines these women’s relationship to the land.

Bringing together the three works into one common space for the first time, in the context of its presentation at Galerie de l’UQAM, the project came out of a desire to raise awareness in the art milieu about Pekuakamiulnuatsh women artists of the Mashteuiatsh community. For curator Sonia Robertson, the exhibition has contributed to her thinking on the functions of art for First Nations and more specifically for the Ilnuatsh:

“As an art therapist, it is vital for me to highlight the homeostatic functions of art, which have a long history for the Ilnuatsh and which have inspired certain fundamental notions of art therapy. Even though there is no word for ‘art’ in my language [Nehlueun], art practices have always been used to reconnect with oneself, with others, and with the invisible Spirit world so important to the Ilnuatsh. The real or imaginary land therefore serves as a basis for art practices since it is connected to our individual and collective identity. It is also our pharmacy, our pantry, our hardware store, our library. It is a place of sharing and transmitting history and knowledge.”

Eshi uapatakau ishkueuatsh tshitassinu / Regards de femmes sur le territoire invites us to experience these women artists’ plural perspectives on the land through various powerful and touching works. The exhibition offers a journey to the core of these artists’ rich imaginary.

About the Mashteuiatsh Artists

Marie-Andrée Gill lives in Petit-Saguenay. As an artist, screenwriter, and author, she offers a view of the world suffused with poetry—a pure, raw, direct poetry. Her language evokes Nehlueun, the Ilnu language, through its powerful images and humour, characteristic of the Ilnuatsh. Her writing moves between kitsch and existentialism, exploring intimacy and the relationship to the land as a form of healing. Her work draws inspiration from the everyday and pop culture in order to make a transition to a decolonized world. She affirms her adapted Ilnu identity, rooted in the values of her ancestors and orality, yet also entirely contemporary. Her first book, Béante (La Peuplade, 2012), was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry in 2013. With her most recent book, Chauffer le dehors (La Peuplade, 2019), she was a finalist for the 2019 Nelligan Award and won the 2019 Salon du livre du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Award in the poetry category and the 2020 Indigenous Voice Award.

Sophie Kurtness is a multidisciplinary artist with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary art from the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC). Her work probes the borders of painting and installation, drawing inspiration from Nitassinan, the land and culture of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh. It expresses the link connecting the Ilnu to the earth, spirits, and animals. Her work combines sensitivity and strength, what we see and what we feel. It is subtle, poetic, intelligent, and sometimes unsettling. Kurtness has shown her work at the Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh several times, as well as at Séquence (Chicoutimi), Espace F (Matane), and the Maison de la culture Frontenac (Montreal). She has participated in many nature-art symposiums, particularly in Mexico. She is Artistic Co-Director of the new permanent exhibition at the Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh, which has received a Canadian Museums Association Excellence Award.

Soleil Launière lives and works in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang (Montreal). Drawing inspiration from myths and animal spirits, she makes contemporary work that has been presented in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. She is a multidisciplinary artist, combining singing, movement, theatre, performance art, and sometimes image and sound. In 2019, she staged her first production Umanishish at Usine C, directed Nikamotan-Nicto, which was presented as part of the First Peoples’ Festival, and performed on the stages of NAC and Le Diamant in Where the Blood Mixes. In 2020, she co-directed Courir l’Amérique, which was presented at Théâtre Quat’ Sous, and staged her second production Sheuetamu. She is completing a two-year residency at the National Theatre School of Canada and will soon be releasing an album with the support of Musique Nomade.

About the Guide

Caroline Nepton Hotte is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies and a professor in the Department of Art History at UQAM. She is a member of the Mashteuiatsh Ilnu community (Quebec) and has been exploring Indigenous issues for over twenty years, particularly those related to First Nations women. Drawing inspiration from critical feminist theory and Indigenous epistemologies, she documents and analyzes the continuities and transformations in Indigenous expressions of identity and cosmology through the art practices of Indigenous women, particularly those that make use of digital and media tools.

About the Curator

An Ilnu from Mashteuiatsh where she currently lives, Sonia Robertson is an artist, art therapist and curator. Since receiving her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary art from the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) in 1996, she has participated in many art events in Canada, France, Haiti, Mexico, and Japan. She has developed a site-specific and increasingly participatory approach. For her, art is a powerful means of expression and healing. In 2017, she completed a master’s degree in art therapy at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), during which she developed an approach connected to the imaginary of hunter-gatherer people. Since 1994, she has curated projects situated on the border between art and art therapy. Her caring approach often leads artists to explore other fields of expression. She was the curator of the project Aki Odehi at the Centre d’exposition of Val-d’Or and in charge of the permanent participatory exhibition, L’esprit du Pekuakamiulnu, at the Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh in 2005. These two projects received Excellence Awards from the Société des Musées du Québec (SMQ).

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