Policy Sectors

Can Indigenous artwork be part of reconciliation?

Art’s impact on people and society is well documented. Museums and galleries across the planet have known how art can influence humanity; it has shaped the cultural mosaic of mankind for centuries and will continue to do so for eons.

Art enhances brain function by affecting brain wave patterns, emotions and the nervous centre. Art also has an impact on society in its ability to change opinions, instill values, and translate experiences across space and time. It has been said that “anything is possible through art.” Indeed, the field of psychology recognizes that art can break down cultural and social barriers; it can make people “feel.”

The Seven Grandfather Teachings is a set of teachings that guides Indigenous Peoples. They are integral to our way of being and are reflected in the many things we do as a people.

When Indigenous artists create artwork (not artifacts, sacred items, or ceremonial pieces), they are often do so for a purpose. Many times, the art reflects an Indigenous artist’s perspective of the past, the present, and the future. This Indigenous lens and worldview often references traditional teachings, ceremony, cultural expressions, and scenes and symbolism of spirituality, life, nature, and mankind.

Indigenous artists are important to Indigenous communities. They transfer knowledge through their art and are able to channel their ability to know, heal, and see into an art piece that in itself can reflect and promote healing, decolonizing, and reconciliation.

When displayed with intention and prominently positioned, Indigenous artwork can greatly influence the energy of a room and the people in that room. If done respectfully and in accordance with protocols, artwork by Indigenous people can Indigenize a space.

Indigenous artists recognize the importance of their work and strive to promote Indigenous culture, healing, and reconciliation.

Organizations working towards reconciliation should be applauded for recognizing the impacts and importance of art on people and society. But organizations need to do more than hang a few pieces of Indigenous art on their walls.

Reconciliation requires dialogue. In the same way that space was made for Indigenous art, so should space be made for dialogue—for teaching, education, and creating reconciliation opportunities for staff, guests, and visitors.