[Rétrospective 2022] Aboriginal people increasingly present on the Quebec cultural scene

In music, visual arts and words, Indigenous artists from Quebec have been increasingly present on the Quebec cultural scene in 2022. Whether in museums, in bookstores or on the airwaves, their place, now recognized, is still expected to increase.

In music, at least two new prizes now reward the music of the First Peoples, that of the Aboriginal album of the year at ADISQ and that of the Aboriginal revelation of the year at Radio-Canada. At ADISQ, Atikamekw Laura Niquay won this award in 2022, as did that of Indigenous artist of the year. And Kanen, an Innu singer-songwriter from Mani-Utenam, was crowned Indigenous revelation of the year 2022-2023 at Radio-Canada.

On the Nikamowin platform, set up by the Musique nomade group, which supports the creation and dissemination of Indigenous music from Quebec, 44,000 users discovered music from the First Peoples this year.

For Joëlle Robillard, Executive Director of Musique nomade, this Aboriginal representation is the result of several years of work in the field and new production and distribution structures for artists. Because it is the quantity of indigenous artists that justifies opening new categories representing them, at ADISQ or Radio-Canada, she notes. “There is still a long way to go”, she says, but we are seeing a “real collective movement”.

According to her, the proliferation of indigenous structures, through recording studios for example, encourages artists to produce new content. And in a context of social openness, an artist like Laura Niquay is more daring to produce songs exclusively in Atikamekw. A few years ago, says Joëlle Robillard, “there would not have been this enthusiasm”.

During the year, the debate on the presence of the Anishinabe artist Samian at the Festival international de la chanson de Granby (FICG) made the headlines. The organizers had excluded his participation because he refused to submit to the rules of the competition forcing him to present 80% of French content, while his latest album is exclusively in Anishinabémowin. “Are indigenous languages ​​still to be considered as foreign languages ​​in 2022? asked the artist. Faced with the extent of the controversy, the FICG had to revise its positions.

For Aboriginal artists, the fight to obtain a place on the radio, in particular in commercial radio stations, remains to be won.

Decolonization straight ahead

In museums, the Indigenous presence and perspective is part of the global movement to decolonize collections. This sometimes takes place in controversy, as we saw recently at the National Gallery of Canada.

For its part, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is about to appoint a first permanent Aboriginal curator. It’s a nomination that required “great research,” explains Mary-Dailey Desmarais, chief curator at the MMFA. The challenge was to find a commissioner who could speak both English, French and an Aboriginal language.

In 2022, the exhibition Tusarnitut! The music that comes from the cold, which addresses the place of music in the Inuit visual arts, was curated by Inuit Lisa Koperqualuk, in collaboration with ethnomusicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez and associate curator Charissa Von Harringa. But since then, M.me Koperqualuk has been appointed Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Circle, and she can no longer assume the role of Inuit Arts Mediator at the MMFA.

According to Mary-Dayley Desmarais, the museum’s collection of Aboriginal art brings together about 1,000 works, including a high proportion of Inuit art. “Since 2018, we have tried to do more programming, to put more and more emphasis on Indigenous artists,” she says.

A department of their own

In bookstores, Aboriginal authors now often have their own section. On the occasion of the month » I read native”, in June, the Cooperative of independent bookstores has published for two years a thematic notebook entitled I read nativeavailable free of charge, online and in print.

“There was a willingness on the part of the partners, in particular SODEC and organizations that financially support culture,” to produce content related to the event, explains Jean-Benoît Dumais, general manager of the cooperative.

“Obviously, all this appears in a context of reconciliation,” he continues, a context that notably follows the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the effects of residential schools for Aboriginals in the country.

In bookshops, the very popular kukum, written by Innu journalist Michel Jean, sowed the seeds of a growing interest in Aboriginal literature. This year, researcher Myriam Saint-Gelais also published a book, entitled A history of Innu literature, where she plunges into the oral roots of this tradition which now passes in written form to us.

« We have never seen such enthusiasm for our literature, » say Cassandre and Daniel Sioui, co-owners of the bookstore and Éditions Hannenorak. “Since our creation, a dozen years ago, we have never received as many manuscripts as this year. »

This windfall is warmly welcomed by booksellers, they note. “Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do and many steps to catch up, but we are far from discouraged when we see the reception that the readership gives us,” they say.

“Often readers have tasted Michel Jean and they want to go further,” reports Marie-Hélène Vaugeois, owner of Librairie Vaugeois, in Quebec. The bookstore has set up a section with 75 titles by Aboriginal authors in its business. She says that indigenous poetry figures prominently in this selection and that folklore has given way to contemporary voices.

“Before, French tourists wanted historical essays. Now they want Indigenous literature,” she says.

To see in video

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