“Mary aims to explore and artistically express the social parameters and Indigenous philosophies that define her as an Ojibway woman.”
Mary McPherson is an emerging artist practicing in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Mary’s art is her way of expressing her understanding of who she is. Through a process of research and reflection, Mary works at her art while conceptually developing what she wishes to express. She usually uses graphite as a medium for her drawings, however, as a Visual Arts student at Lakehead University, she is working to expand the mediums available to her. Mary aims to explore and artistically express the social parameters and Indigenous philosophies that define her as an Ojibway woman. She strives through her art to counter-act the racism she observes in society. Mary also uses her art to understand the violent histories that her family and ancestors have been subjected to. This historical knowledge inspires her to build her artistic personality, through cultural synthesis utilizing critical thinking to aid in the rediscovery of her own cultural worldview.
In 2015, Mary was awarded 1st place by Aboriginal Arts and Stories for her drawing, “Cross Assimilation”. The drawing is her expression of the inter-connectedness of colonization and assimilation practices, arising from her knowledge of residential schools and her experiences in the current education system. Having won the junior Aboriginal Arts and Stories award, Mary was awarded a Governor General History Award the following fall, presented at Rideau Hall.
Mary McPherson is a Couchiching First Nation visual artist from living in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
My artist name is iskwé (stems from my tradtional name, waseskwan iskwew). I'm an Alternative RnB/TripHop singer/songwriter/poet and have been working in the arts as a musician for over 12 years.
My arts practice is that of creating and performing music. I’m a vocalist and have training in piano, music theory, voice and creative writing – all to which I use in my art form. My songs all come from a place of emotion, whether it is my own first hand, or emotion I recognize in others. I use my voice to tell a story. My story, my sisters story, my friends story…a total strangers story. My music is pretty diverse in genre at the end of the day, simply because that’s how I view emotion – there isn’t one set way to feel so there couldn’t possibly be one set way to create.
My cultural background absolutely influences my work, as it is simply a part of my being. I have mixed heritage, for which I am extremely proud. I feel that this mixture has led me to find strength in identity that I often struggled with. That strength in identity comes through in my music as I feel I have nothing to hide in it. I am comfortable baring all and sharing emotion from a truthful place, as my voice took me many years to fully discover. Now I’m happy in my ability to be truthful in my identity, both artistically and culturally.
“As Indigenous artists the land is our archive, and our embodied relationship to the land defines Indigenous identities, history, science, cosmology, literature - and our performance.”
I am the third generation of four generations of Indigenous performing artists in my family. From my Guna grandfather performing in Side Shows during the Great Depression of the 19308, to my mother, a founding member of New York's Spiderwoman Theater, to my son, a member of the Juno Award winning A Tribe Called Red - the arts and performing has been our life and our livelihood.
My process in creating performances adheres to Indigenous cultural and ceremonial protocols and requires what I call "embodied research": the playwright/performers walk on, touch, feel, smell, and absorb the stories, rhythms and elements in the land. This is followed by and recreated through embodied "writing," including in-studio work in "deep improvisation" involving both text and movement integrated with an evolving design, music and sound, and the revelation of humour. This corporeal creation is deeply embedded in the body and connected to the deep, ancestral cultural memories of the creator/performers. It privileges Indigenous aesthetic principals throughout and is dedicated to sourcing Indigenous cultural forms. It uses emerging techniques and ground breaking trans-Indigenous dramaturgies while continuing to explore embodiment in the recovery of Indigenous Knowledge.
This ongoing reclamation of historical memory and cultural translating continues with my artist-driven collective's work-in-progress, Side Show Freaks & Circus Injuns co-written with Choctaw playwright, LeAnne Howe. The structure for this site-specific performance is based on the effigy mounds and earthworks that are aligned in multiple ways across Turtle Island. The Moundbuilder principles we are transposing are: duration, alignment and frequency, convergence and integration. The embodied research into the literary structure of earthworks (as a dramaturgical framework) is part of my long-term artistic pursuit of developing Indigenous dramaturgies. It also solidifies the location of Indigenous performance principles at the centre of my artistic practice. Through these theatrical investigations, I practice the embodiment of place. As Indigenous artists the land is our archive, and our embodied relationship to the land defines Indigenous identities, history, science, cosmology, literature - and our performance.
Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock nations) is an actor and playwright living in Toronto.