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Salish Sea Sentinel | August 19, 2019

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Musqueam activist honoured in Vancouver art exhibit

Musqueam activist honoured in Vancouver art exhibit

Musqueam activist Audrey Siegl and her late sister are being honoured in a new art exhibit that looks at the sacred relationships between Indigenous women and water.  

The multimedia exhibition qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways opened at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver on April 10.  

The show features the work of nine Indigenous woman artists and was curated by the ReMatriate Collective —  a volunteer-led movement dedicated to empowering Indigenous women. 

The exhibit features photography, paintings, prints, carvings, jewelry and more. The pieces were chosen because they relate to the importance of water as a life-force, as well as to the relationships First Nations women have had with it throughout history. 

Siegl was chosen by ReMatriate as an important contemporary water keeper who is being honoured in the exhibit for her ongoing advocacy work, which has included fighting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and travelling with the national inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

Central to the exhibit are two large black and white film photos of Siegl taken by Kaska Dena photographer Kali Spitzer, with audio of Siegl singing and drumming in the background.  
One of the photos is a portrait of Siegl, and the other is a memorial to Siegl’s sister Maria, who died from a fentanyl overdose earlier this year.  

In the photo, Siegl can be seen standing mournfully in a cedar hat, holding a photo of Maria along with a candle and sprig of cedar.  

Siegl said there have been so many tragedies for Indigenous women across Canada, and she often feels overwhelmed by all the work that must be done.  

“This exhibit is a reminder for me that we are powerful, and we are resilient and we’re strong and beautiful,” she said. 

“And we deserve safety, peace and justice now.” 

Aside from Spitzer, the other artists featured in the exhibit are: Richelle Bear Hat (Blackfoot/Cree), Krystle Coughlin (Selkirk), Lindsay Katsitsakataste Delaronde (Mohawk), Alison Marks (Tlingit), Dionne Paul (Nuxalk/Sechelt), Marika Echachis Swan (Nuu-chah-nulth), Carrielynn Victor (Sto:lo) and Veronica Waechter (Gitxsan). 

Curators also worked with the Musqueam language and culture department to come up with the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ title for the show, qaʔ yəxw, meaning “water honours us.” 

Siegl grew up hearing hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and spoke about how the language and land are inextricably connected. 

“All of our directional language was derived from our relationship with the water,” she said. 

“The water was as essential to our life as our own blood, and it still is.  It’s our transportation, it’s where our food came from, it’s part of our ceremonies and our everyday work.” 

qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways will run until October 2nd.