Aboriginality | February 2013


The Idle No More movement is altering the dynamic in Aboriginal relations, stirring a new political chemistry that may change the power balance not only between Aboriginal leaders and Canadian governments, but within Aboriginal communities. Yet the wider Canadian reaction to this development saw nothing more than a retreat into the comfort of familiar views. From these bunkers of conviction we heard the same old arguments from all sides, a recitation of positions that reinforced a dismal sense of stalemate. The desire in these pages is to break through that impasse using the narrative power of photography. The portraits of Aboriginal people in this issue were taken by Aboriginal photographers now exhibiting their work in a National Gallery of Canada touring exhibition called Steeling the Gaze, which is currently showing in Saskatoon. For too long, the non Aboriginal lens has offered two broad windows on Aboriginal subjects: the romanticized composition of the Aboriginal as warrior (whether on horseback in 19th century headdress or masked at a 21st century barricade), or as the tragic victim in a pornographic depiction of poverty. The portraits here shatter that stereotype, toying with the conventional images of their subjects, and expressing a fresh insight into Aboriginal identity.

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