February 5, 2019 4:46 pm
Updated: February 5, 2019 5:25 pm

Exhibition ‘Shame and Prejudice’ honours First Nations, questions how Canadians see their history

Cree artist Kent Monkman poses for a photograph at his new exhibition "Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience."

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
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Montreal’s McCord Museum will be home to Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, an exhibition by internationally-renowned Cree artist Kent Monkman.

It is his second national-touring solo exhibition, revisiting Canadian history, from Confederation to today, as seen through the eyes of “Miss Chief Eagle Testickle,” his time-travelling, shape-shifting, gender-fluid alter ego.

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The works of art employ humour and critical insight to create a deep retrospective of the country’s previous 150 years, while also demolishing popular beliefs, challenging hetero-normative society and deflecting gender binaries.

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“As this exhibition developed, it kind of broke into different themes,” he told Global News.

“There are different chapters and they range from talking about residential schools, the reserve system, the legacy of incarceration on Indigenous People. Why are First Nations people disproportionately represented in our prisons today?”

Through the various paintings, sculptures and other media, Monkman said he aims to challenge the way Canadians see their history, mired by devastating genocidal policies, which he considers to be “the most devastating period for First Peoples.”

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He also honours the resilience of Indigenous peoples today.

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“[It] is a deeply disturbing exhibition about the history of Indigenous peoples from here and across Canada, a story that needs to be told and heard,” said McCord Museum president and
CEO Suzanne Sauvage.

“This is an opportunity for the McCord Museum to initiate encounters, dialogue and reconciliation around a topic that concerns us all and forces us to reflect on ourselves.”

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The accompanying nine-chapter booklet, “Excerpts from the Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle,” which reflects on the colonialist policies of a not-so-distant past, will, for the first time, be made available in Cree, French and English.

“They wanted to take the Indian out of us; they couldn’t do that, but they did beat down our spirits,” an excerpt reads.

“The others cannot see our magic, they try to tell us it is not there, but they do not understand the power of Miss Chief and they sorely underestimate the resilience of our people.”

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The exhibition has already toured throughout Western Canada, the Maritimes and Ontario.

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It will run in Montreal from Feb. 8 to May 5. This is Monkman’s second collaboration with the McCord Museum.

For now, there are no plans to show it elsewhere in the province.

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rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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