Cree Artist Kent Monkman's Vivid Narration of Indigenous Resilience

Kent Monkman, Giants Walked the Earth, 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 27 in. x 42.5 in.

Kent Monkman, an accomplished artist of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Treaty 5 Territory (Manitoba), currently calls New York and treaty territory in Ontario his creative homes. A multidisciplinary artist, he reframes the histories of American art, creating vivid imagery of the continuous erasure of Indigenous peoples, from colonial times to the present.

Now, on display from October 26 to 29, 2023, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is "isokonikan." This Cree term, "isokonikan," carries the meanings of "Indian reserve" and "leftover land." It originates from Canada's Indian Act of 1876, a piece of legislation that restricted First Nations people to reservations.

This installation features artworks from his 2022 Being Legendary series, offering an exploration of the Indigenous knowledge intimately intertwined with the land, while highlighting the reduction of Turtle Island to a mere fraction of its historical significance

Monkman remarks “After European settlers arrived and spread across Turtle Island, we signed agreements to share the land with them. Our ancestors believed we were entering into a kinship relationship with them, making us all treaty people. These treaties stated that our land was not to be sold or given away, yet most Indigenous lands have been stolen, encroached upon, or embezzled. Today, most reserves are located in remote areas, far from the urban centres that were once Indigenous people’s meeting, living, hunting, agricultural and trading places. Many of us have been forcibly moved to remote areas that European settlers viewed as the leftovers. This dispossession and land theft has created many barriers to how we thrive in today’s world.”

In New York, the National Arts Club plays host to Monkman's pieces, "The Protectors" and "The Madhouse." The artworks delve into themes of Eurocentrism and colonialism from a distinctly Indigenous perspective. Notable for their vivid colors, inventive use of scale, and subtle nods to religious art, they artfully convey narratives of sexuality, loss, and resilience.

These artworks will be on view by appointment from September through December 2023, inviting you to explore Monkman's unique vision and voice amplified in his art.