"Pictures That Speak" explores Mohawk language

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Artist David Kanatawakhon's Tekawennànote - Pictures That Speak

Gazette File Photo

THIS GEOLOGY TEXTBOOK IS JUST BIZARRE. Artist David Kanatawakhon’s “Tekawennànote (Pictures That Speak)” explores First Nations experiences and runs at the McIntosh Gallery until April 5.

McIntosh Gallery’s new exhibit, “Tekawennànote (Pictures That Speak),” investigates Mohawk language and culture through insightful pictograms, paintings and fully interactive computers. London artist David Kanatawakhon’s work is now on display and runs until April 5.

“For students, this is the opportunity to experience something completely different,” Kanatawakhon, who is also a member of the anthropology department at Western, said.

The combination of computer programs, artwork and language produces a unique visual.

“The idea is that you walk into [Pictures That Speak] as a three-dimensional environment,” Catherine Elliot Shaw, curator of McIntosh Gallery, explained.

The exhibit focuses on the written Mohawk language through complex pictograms. These heavily researched pictograms are Kanatawakhon’s interpretation of what present day Mohawk would look like, had the Europeans not come and introduced their written languages.

“The world doesn’t need one language, the world needs lots of languages,” Kanatawakhon said. “You should always try and maintain them.”

The paintings of the exhibit feature traditional Iroquoian clothing designs, which utilize a range of eye-catching colours.

Kanatawakhon’s designs stand in contrast to what most students are used to seeing.

“Canadians in general are very monochromatic in the way they dress,” Kanatawakhon said. “Designs such as these help to identify who they are or where they’re from.”

The art is a breath of fresh air for Western, especially for Kanatawakhon, who believes the university does not live up to its full potential in this regard.

“It’s almost like there is a protest going on against colour and design,” he said.

While Kanatawakhon’s information and presentation style may be new to many on campus, the idea of featuring a First Nations exhibit has been building momentum for a long time.

“I had been talking with David for years about his work and his ideas,” Elliot Shaw said. “We are not as knowledgeable about First Nations culture as we should be.”

The subject of a First Nations identity is debated and discussed by many.

“What often happens is that in trying not to be different, we divorce ourselves from our culture and traditions,” Kanatawakhon explained.

He hopes that not only will his people accept the pictographic language he has presented in the exhibit, but that they will keep it up. “If you don’t maintain culture, it dies,” he said.

Those interested in experiencing “Tekawennànote (Pictures That Speak)” or a second First Nations exhibit featuring student photography can visit McIntosh Gallery any time until April 5.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette