Mi'kwite'tmn (Do You Remember) - pronounced Mih-gwih-DAY-duh-min - examines ideas of ancestry, identity and cultural practice. Mi’kmaw artist Ursula Johnson deconstructs and manipulates the function and image of Mi'kmaw basketry using traditional techniques to build non-functional forms.
Mi’kwite’tmn is comprised of three exhibition components. First, the Museological Grand Hall holds vitrines (plexiglass display cases) etched with silkscreened and sandblasted images of baskets made by Johnson’s great-grandmother, Caroline Gould. Specific Mi’kmaw terminology associated with particular techniques is also used to label the diagrams.
The second component is the Performance Space featuring neo-artifacts activated by an endurance performance by the artist. Johnson processes harvested ash wood in a way that resembles traditional techniques, but deliberately reduces the wood to only an accumulation of shavings.
The final space, the Archive Room, is an interactive area housing O’pltek forms that have been tagged and catalogued. A workstation allows visitors to scan the information tag of each O’pltek and to interact with the objects’ digital records.
By questioning museological methods of collecting, categorising and archiving, Johnson explores, and intervenes in, the impact of colonialism on Indigenous material culture and language.
Curated by Robin Metcalfe, organised and circulated by Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, Halifax in collaboration with Unama’ki College. With the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, Arts Nova Scotia and the municipality of Halifax.
Image credit: Ursula Johnson, Upmetuk O’pltek Form , 2012, Black Ash, Maple Wood, Sweetgrass. Courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Wendy McElmon