New exhibit imagines Mohawk culture in the future

Tom Fennario
APTN National News
A Mohawk woman is putting a modern touch on Indigenous art.

Skawennati, from Kahnawake territory, now living in Montreal, creates Machinima style animation with an Indigenous spin.

Her works are currently being featured at Oboro Art Studio in Montreal.

One of her creations, “She Falls for Ages,” is a re-imagining of the Mohawk Sky Woman creation story as if it were to happen in the 25th century.

“I think with this new work, I’m really kind of actually stretching out in both directions,” said Skawennati. “I’m also trying to remember our past.”

A meshing of the past and future is a reoccurring theme in Skawennatis’s new exhibition called, “Tomorrow People.”

Another piece of work called “Words Before All Else-Part 1,” greets visitors with the traditional Mohawk thanksgiving address.

“You could say that most of my work is about making sure native people appear in the future,” said Skawennati. “And I use cyber space. I use virtual environments and websites and video games as metaphor for the future.”

Despite looking at the future, the exhibition is part of a  year-long celebration of the past, in this case, Montreal’s 375th anniversary.

“Maybe it can start to be framed in the conversation as 375 years of relationships, and that the number 375 would not be the number if it wasn’t for the Indigenous people who met the newcomers, and greeted them and fed them,” Skawennati said.

The studio artistic director, Claudine Hubert said the all Indigenous programing is meant as a response not only to the 375 anniversary but also to provide more prestigious solo exhibitions to Indigenous artists they admire.

“I just really love the humour in it (Skawennati’s work). It’s very playful and it’s smart. It’s very witty and the work is witty,” said Hubert.

Also, a fan of Skawennati’s work is fellow artist and Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel.

Aside from having a soft spot for sci fi, Gabriel also lauds Skawennati’s interpretation of Mohawk traditions.

“I think it’s really important to emphasize those creation stories because they are the foundation of who we are as Indigenous people, from the stories to the perspective to the languages we speak,” said Gabriel.

If Skawennati’s work has its way, Mohawk Culture will thrive well into the 25th century.

“I think native people, we spend a lot of time worrying about our survival and I think that we don’t have to worry about our survival anymore. I think now we have to think about thriving,” said Skawennati.

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Producer Nouvelles Nationales d'APTN / Montreal

Born and raised in Montreal, Tom cut his teeth working in community television in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory before joining APTN as a cameraman/editor in 2008. In 2015 he was promoted to Video Journalist. Since 2019 Tom has been a producer for the French weekly newscast Nouvelles Nationales d’APTN.