SAKAHÀN: International Indigenous Art

Ottawa (Ontario) - May 15, 2013

An exhibition that offers an exceptional opportunity to discover works by some of the world’s most innovative contemporary artists

At the National Gallery of Canada and in 16 partner institutions

From May 17 to September 2, 2013

Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, the largest-ever global survey of contemporary Indigenous art, is opening this Friday at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). On view until September 2, 2013, the exhibition features over 150 poetic, unexpected and challenging artworks by more than 80 artists from 16 countries and six continents. Sakahàn, meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples, is organized by the National Gallery of Canada, supported by the RBC Foundation, and sponsored by CN. In addition, Sakahàn partners will present exhibitions in spaces in the Ottawa-Gatineau region and across the country. For more information, visit

The artworks presented in Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art range from videos and installations to sculptures, drawings, prints, paintings, performance art, murals and new, site-specific projects created specifically for this exhibition. Employing distinct approaches that reflect their specific and unique places in the world, the artists create a rich and generative dialogue about what it means to be an Indigenous artist today. In an increasingly globalized world, this exchange of ideas and experiences has a profound effect on us all.

Among the many artists featured in the exhibition are such well-known names as Rebecca Belmore (Anishinaabe, lives in Vancouver, Canada), Brian Jungen (Dane-zaa, lives in Vancouver, Canada), Annie Pootoogook (Inuit, lives in Ottawa, Canada), and Tim Pitsiulak (Inuit, lives  in Cape Dorset, NU, Canada), Jimmie Durham (Cherokee, lives in Rome, Italy, and Berlin, Germany), Marie Watt, (Seneca, lives in Portland, USA), Teresa Margolles (Mestiza, lives in Madrid, Spain, and Mexico City, Mexico), Michael Parekowhai (Maori, lives in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand), and Fiona Pardington (Maori and Scottish, lives in Waiheke Island, Aotearoa New Zealand). Also included are a number of artists who have not yet received widespread exposure in North America, such as Toru Kaizawa (Ainu, lives in Nibutani, Japan), Venkat Raman Shyam (Gond, lives in Bhopal, India), and Outi Pieski (Sámi, lives in Utsjoki, Finland).

Through their works, the artists engage with concepts of self-representation to question colonial narratives, present parallel histories, promote the value of the handmade, explore relationships between the spiritual, the uncanny and the everyday, and put forward highly personal responses to the impact of social and cultural trauma.

Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art is perhaps our most ambitious exhibition to date. It demonstrates the importance we at the National Gallery of Canada place on the work of Indigenous artists, wherever it is made. You will find outstanding and innovative contributions to contemporary world culture here. We plan to make a quinquennial habit of bringing you the finest examples of new work by modern examplars of the world's ancient cultures, artists who are immeasurably enriching the visual arts with new ideas, new points of view and new beauty,” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

“As a longstanding partner of the National Gallery, RBC is proud to support their ongoing commitment to collecting and studying Indigenous art, and to providing Canadians the opportunity to enjoy these exceptional works through the Sakahàn exhibition,” said Shari Austin, vice-president of Corporate Citizenship for RBC and executive director of the RBC Foundation.

NGC visitors will be able to explore the exhibition throughout the Gallery’s building and grounds, including its Special Exhibitions Galleries; Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries; and Contemporary Galleries, as well as outside the building.

Exhibition curators
Sakahàn is co-curated by Greg Hill, the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art; Christine Lalonde, Associate Curator of Indigenous Art; and Candice Hopkins, Elizabeth Simonfay Guest Curator, with the support of an international team of curatorial advisors: Jolene Rickard, Yuh-Yao Wan, Irene Snarby, Arpana Caur, Lee-Ann Martin, Brenda Croft, Megan Tamati-Quennell, and Reiko Saito.

An extensive selection of public activities will accompany Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art: symposium, mini-talks, adult art tours, film series, learning lounge and the Artissimo kiosk for families. For more details, consult the events list or call 613.998.8888 or 1.888.541.8888.

Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art — the catalogue
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue that features essays on recent developments in the field of contemporary Indigenous art by curators Greg Hill, Christine Lalonde and Candice Hopkins, as well as members of the advisory committee and invited authors. Published by the NGC, the 288-page catalogue will be available for $39.95 at the NGC Bookstore and online at as of May 17, 2013.

The NGC thanks its exhibition sponsors and supporting partners
The National Gallery of Canada would like to extend a special thank-you to the RBC Foundation for its generous support of the exhibition and to CN for its sponsorship. The NGC would also like to acknowledge First Air for its in-kind support of this exhibition and the Embassy of Mexico for its support and collaboration.

NGC Magazine, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and the goings-on at the National Gallery of Canada.  Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine includes exclusive interviews with artists. This month, read two stories related to the exhibition: Sakahàn: Lighting the Fire and Wearing our Identity.

Connect with Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art
The NGC regularly publishes information about the exhibition on its social media networks. To find out more, connect with:
Twitter: @gallerydotca

Admission to Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art
Open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and until 8 pm on Thursdays. Free with general admission to the NGC Collection: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $6 for youths aged 12-19, and $24 for families (2 adults and 3 youths). Free admission at all times for NGC Members and children under 12. Free admission Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm, and on Sunday, May 19 (International Museum Day); Sunday, June 2 (National Indigenous Day); and Monday, July 1 (Canada Day). For more information, call 613.998.8888 or 1.888.541.8888.

Sakahàn partners
Galleries and institutions are also partnering with the Gallery to present exciting installations and exhibitions alongside Sakahàn: Aboriginal Art Centre, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Art Gallery of Windsor, Asinabka Film and Media Festival, AXENÉO7, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Carleton University Art Gallery, Gallery 101, National Arts Centre, Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa School of Art, SAW Gallery, SAW Video Media Art Centre, and Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art. For more information, visit their respective websites.

About the National Gallery of Canada 
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition programme. For more information:

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For more information, please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada