Lantern Art Installation Joins Indigenous and Asian Cultures

An art installation in the Greater Toronto Area celebrates the Year of the Tiger while bridging cultural divides.

Six lanterns with designs by Indigenous artists are displayed outside the Varley Art Gallery in Markham, Ontario, marking the Lunar New Year with an Indigenous touch.

The art installation was produced as part of LunarFest, organized by the Asian Canadian Special Events Association. The lanterns will be on display until March 6.

“We felt that was an important connection that we’re trying to make with the indigenous community, to help the Asian community learn more about different art forms and different perspectives,” said agent Michael Lin. liaison for the association, to CTV News.

“Working with Indigenous artists, I think is a completely different perspective. There is so much symbolism and meaning behind the different coins. Lots of strong ties and connections with family, nature, animals,” Lin added.

Lanterns are a common sight around Lunar New Year and signify guidance and progress in Asian cultures. This year, organizers said they wanted to relate this to issues of reconciliation and abuses in the residential school system.

“It’s a story that even I, growing up in Canada, didn’t really learn that much in school. And it’s one of those truths of history that people want you to forget, but you really shouldn’t,” Lin said.

Northern Ontario Anishinaabek artist Elliott Doxtater-Wynn was one of four artists who contributed to the lantern designs.

“When the Asian company called me and became interested in my work, honestly, at first I was like, ‘Me? Why?’ But then they (said) they were drawn to the style and the language and the literacy that I brought through the job,” he told CTV News. felt like it was an easy fit.”

Doxtater-Wynn’s artwork, titled Bewayzhimaak, depicts families coming together to support each other in the face of adversity and features orange shirts, a symbol used to raise awareness of abuse in the residential school system.

“(Bewayzhimaak) roughly translates to ‘family,’ but in Indigenous languages, the language is a bit more complex than that, and it means coming together as one, like a family grouping,” Doxtater-Wynn said.

Cross-cultural ties continue inside the gallery. One side features a painting by renowned Ojibway artist Norval Morriseau. On the other, you’ll see empty frames, signifying the important missing piece of Indigenous art – a void the gallery wants to fill.

“Celebrating and recognizing artists from all cultures is very important to us, and that really aligns with our mandate, which is really to create critical conversations through art about Canadian art and society,” Varley Art Gallery director Niamh O’Laoghaire told CTV News. .

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