Beat Nation – Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture

I had the pleasure of seeing an excellent hip hop exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was such a powerful show. The picture below is a still shot from my favorite piece. It was a video made from a group of skateboarders living on the rez in Arizona. The video was poignant and moving, but also clever and light.

Dustinn Craig, 4wheelwarpony bro team, 2007, production still. Courtesy of the artist, from Ariane Design blog.

This art sings, screams, whispers, beats a drum and proclaims our presence

From the  Vancouver Art Gallery’s website:

Beat Nation reflects a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity in entirely innovative and unexpected ways. Using hip hop and other forms of popular culture, artists create surprising new cultural hybrids—in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video—that reflect the changing demographics of Aboriginal people today.

Dana Claxton, Baby Girlz Gotta Mustang, 2008, lightjet C-print. Courtesy of the artist & Winsor Gallery.

United by a passion to express their contemporary reality, the artists come from Aleut, Apache, Cree, Haida, Inuit, Lakota, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, Navajo, Tsimshian, and many other communities. While this exhibition takes its starting point from hip hop, it branches out to include artists who use pop culture, graffiti, fashion and other signifiers of urban life in combination with more traditional forms of Aboriginal identity.

BeatNation4 -Shawn Hunt, Master of Ceremony, 2011, acrylic on panel.

Beat Nation shows that we are here

“This art sings, screams, whispers, beats a drum and proclaims our presence,” says Secwepemc co-curator Tania Willard, “Beat Nation shows, despite the many efforts to repress and eradicate our culture, that we are here. And we are thriving. Like the beats of our sacred drums, we echo our ancestors in the expression of culture regardless of medium: whether electronic beats or drum skins, natural pigments or neon spray cans, beads or bling, break dancing or ceremonial dancing, we do it as an expression of who we are, as indigenous peoples.” (From Vancouver Art Gallery: Beat Nation)

Skeena Reece- Raven: On the Colonial Fleet, 2010 Photo: Sebastian Kriete

If you would like to see more of the work featured in this exhibit, here is an excellent slide show explaining some of the pieces in the show. This blog post by Ariane C Design also features some nice images as well as background info about the artists and the exhibit.

Big ups to Vancouver. They did a really nice job representing on the native (and local!)  tip. I’ll be back soon, it’s my new favorite vacation destination.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. darryl collins
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 16:30:00

    Good work all around.


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