The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has hired its first curator of Indigenous arts to shine a brighter light on Indigenous peoples across the globe.
Artist, curator and author Léuli Eshrāghi has travelled around the world meeting Indigenous artists and landed in Montreal as the new curator in late June.
“I think that same reverence we have for decorative art and Western design, we should have that same deep respect for different Indigenous aesthetic forms,” said Eshrāghi.
“You can see also that many [Indigenous] artists who work in customary forms are innovating and they’re also taking their just place in the contemporary art space.”
The new position is funded by Scotiabank, one of the MMFA’s major donors.
Eshrāghi, who is Sāmoan, Persian, Cantonese and European, is a member of the Sāmoan clans Seumanutafa and Tautua. They said they share a similar respect for water as Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“As an Oceanic Indigenous person, water is a sacred connector, it’s a highway, and so the connection with the rivers and the lakes here is a way for me to really feel grounded and connected to everyone,” said Eshrāghi.
Eshrāghi identifies as faʻafafine, a Sāmoan fluid gender identity roughly translating to “in the manner of a woman.” There are also faʻatama people in Sāmoan culture – roughly translating to “in the manner of a man.”
“Faʻafafine and faʻatama are really known for being the language teachers, the dancers, the aesthetes. in other archipelagos, the similar gender formation would be the people who hold cultural knowledge and who are kind of like extra parents.”
In their new role, Eshrāghi said they will bring more programming for Indigenous peoples locally and internationally – including welcoming community groups and more Indigenous solo exhibitions.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing to champion Indigenous practice from here and from around the world in this place. It’s well needed in Quebec,” they said.