SELF-DIRECTED VISUAL CULTURE OF THE WORLD'S INDIGENOUS WOMEN
April 1—14
Curator: Svetlana Romanova
What exactly is memory? Is it a means of constructing one's existence? If so, how can memory be activated as a place out of which narratives are built?


If we were to regard film and video as a format capable of encapsulating memory in a form that can be open to public perception, what role could then be attributed to the creator? Might his/her position be perceived as the genuine truth? Or would their position be one in which they can wander through various realms of reality, seasoned with narratives and influenced by facts? At what point does historical reality become exaggerated and, consequently, transform into myth?


When considering the formation of indigenous identity in the world of cinema, we must address the topics through which it is realised. The theme of independent ethnography is that of research on how the personality of the contemporary indigenous person is formed, and what factors exert a positive or negative influence on its peculiar course of development. Taking into account the processes of self-reflection currently underway, we may state that the indigenous person has passed from being an object at which the camera is directed and the narrative (that of exotification) is projected onto, to attaining the level of a creator in their own right – one who is not only able to reflect directly on how this has affected their ethnic group, but also to reflect on the future and reproduce their own narratives about complex relationships while looking in from without, as well as the internal point of view (inside the ethnic problems of the small indigenous peoples of Siberia, specific intertribal relations, etc.). For the first time, the individual human being and their indigenousness are playing a priority position in such a context of events – where authentication is not only expressed by belonging to a given ethnicity, but in the possession of agency (of opportunity, power and/or identity) in order to express their own interpretations regarding the inexhaustible themes that revolve around colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonisation. It is vital to note that this combination is not only advantageous from the ethnographic angle, but is also rendered in the audibility and visibility of gender roles. The creation of new advanced platforms is increasing access for the voicing of historically non-priority voices – women's voices. The silencing of the female voice in the postcolonial world and its view in cinema has changed radically. Founders of the genre of reflexive ethnography such as Alanis Obomsawin and Merata Mita have been real pioneers in indigenous women's cinema. Their paths have not only opened up opportunities for future voices, but also erased the boundaries between the concepts of narrative and documentalism. Through the use of narrativisation (personalisation) of key historical events in conjunction with traditional knowledge, their films reflect the myths and legends of contemporary reality.


In this selection of films, the viewer is invited to pay attention to complex intertribal relationships and the ways in which these stories are told from the female point of view. Presented in roughly chronological order, the viewer is given the chance here to follow current problems in the context of the particular timeframe within which these films were made.

Svetlana Romanova was born in Yakutsk and studied the visual arts in Los Angeles. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Otis College of Art and Design and a master's degree from the California Institute of the Arts. From 2009 to 2014, she lived in California where she worked as an art teacher. On returning to Siberia in 2015, she began work on several cinema projects about her hometown and the surrounding regions. Her video project is a study of two local indigenous groups to which she has family ties: the Evenks and the Yakuts (Sakha). Her works have been shown at various art festivals and events in America and Russia.

Navajo Talking Picture

dir. Arlene Bowman
US. 1985. 40 min.

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At the time in which the narrative takes place, film student Arlene Bowman (a Navajo) travels to the reservation to record the traditional ways of her grandmother. Despite her grandmother's forceful objections to this invasion of her privacy, the filmmaking continues. The end result is a work that abruptly calls into question the status of "insider/outsider" in a portrait of an assimilated Navajo struggling to use the "white man's" medium to capture the remnants of her cultural past.

Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

dir.Alanis Obomsawi
n
Canada. 1993. 119 min.

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This Canadian documentary follows the 1990 showdown between the Mohawk nation and the predominantly white Quebec town of Oka, which is intent on developing land deemed sacred by the indigenous people. When members of the Mohawk tribe protest plans to expand a golf course into their territory, they form a barricade, leading to an increasingly intense armed standoff with the provincial police, with the possibility of violence looming over the heads of everyone involved.

Seven Songs from the Tundra

dir. Anastasia Lapsui, Markku Lehmuskallio

Finland. 2000. 90 min.

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Seven Songs from the Tundra is a 1999 Finnish film directed by Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio, and the first ever narrative film in the Nenets language. It tells the stories of the indigenous nomadic people of the Russian tundra under modern communist rule, combining Nenets legends with personal experiences.

Angry Inuk

dir. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
Canada. 2016. 85 min.

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A look at the prosecution of, and hatred towards, seal hunters for practising their traditional rituals. Added to this is an examination of the high-profile celebrities that support anti-hunting campaigns.

Three Thousand

dir. Assinajaq
Canada. 2017. 14 min.

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In this short film, Inuk artist Assinajaq plunges us into a sublime imaginary universe – 14 minutes of luminescent, archive-inspired cinema that recast the present, past and future of her people in a radiant new light.

Diving into the NFB's vast archive, she parses the complex cinematic portrayal of the Inuit, harvesting fleeting truths and fortuitous accidents from a range of sources – newsreels, propaganda, ethnographic documents, and materials by indigenous filmmakers. By embedding historical footage into original animation, she conjures up a vision of hope and wonderful possibility.

Children of War

dir. Sardana Barabanova
Russia. 2021. 37 min.

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This film reconstructs stories of war children in Yakutia during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 with the use of an artistic drawings and animation. Characters of the film are residents of the Tattinsky ulus, who were from 6 to 14 years old during the war. thousands of kilometers from the front line, in small Yakutian villages, these children survived the war - they suffered from hunger, cold, worked on equal basis with adults and witnessed the death of loved ones. This film is a tribute and gratitude to the home front participants and the children of the war. Its an ode to their heroic work in the name of peace on earth.