"The Red Chair Sessions" by Nadya Kwandibens
June to November 2022
David Crombie Park | The Esplanade & Princess St
Nadya Kwandibens’ The Red Chair Sessions showcases Indigenous Peoples inextricable relationships to the land, ancestral bloodlines and waterways through a striking series of portraits. The photo exhibition, unveiled on National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21, 2022, is a selection of 8 portraits from the wider series. This selection was made with the intent to highlight the importance of water, memory and intergenerational stories.
Filmed and Edited by Recro Digital Marketing
The Red Chair Sessions is an ongoing open-call portraiture series that places importance on the acknowledgement and reclamation of Indigenous lands and the revitalization of Indigenous languages. This series ultimately disrupts colonial narratives, centres Indigenous Peoples who have been here since time immemorial, and reminds us that we are all guests on Indigenous land.
The colour red represents Indigenous Peoples on the Medicine Wheel and, in this series, signifies Indigenous Peoples’ inherent connection to the land and to ancestral bloodlines. Whether sitting on or standing beside the red chair, one feels grounded and firmly rooted; the act itself and the resulting portrait serves as a reminder of our responsibility to steward the lands upon which we walk.
Accompanying each photograph is text in the subjects’ respective Indigenous language, or a mix of languages, and can include: names gifted/given in ceremony (written in either English or syllabics), the Nation to which they belong, and the placenames of traditional and Treaty areas that each session occurs. In this way, Indigenous voices are amplified and become a refusal of the colonizer’s language while pointing out the erasure of Indigenous history.
The series is also a celebration honouring the many achievements of Indigenous Peoples and presents a positive perspective for future generations.
Photo by Ana Higuera
Jamii’s 2022 theme is titled “Water is Memory”. It is an invitation to (re)connect the memory cells of water to the stories of our community. In “water” we recognize and honour that our neighbourhood, the Esplanade, was under water less than 200 years ago, and the meaning of “Esplanade” is “boardwalk by the water”. We also embrace the unseen waters that bring life to our surroundings as we acknowledge the river that crosses underneath our community.
This theme is an opportunity to bring “water” to the forefront of our programming, addressing both issues of environmental degradation, climate change and access or lack thereof to clean drinkable water in many Indigenous communities across so-called Canada, such as our partnering community in Pikangikum First Nation.
In “memory”, we dive into exploring how the shared and life-changing memories we create with our community can impact and enhance social cohesion and health outcomes of our community members. You belong to a community if you share its collective memories and thus, memory works as an important agent of social cohesion.
All of the artists and contributors to Jamii’s 2022 season are invited to enrich this theme with their own perspective and interpretation.
Nadya Kwandibens’, The Red Chair Series showcases Indigenous Peoples inextricable relationships to the land, ancestral bloodlines and waterways through a striking series of portraits. The photo exhibition is a selection of 8 portraits from the wider series. This selection was made with the intent to highlight the importance of water, memory and intergenerational stories.
Filmed and Edited by Recro Digital Marketing
Nadya Kwandibens is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) from the Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario. She is an award winning self-taught portrait and events photographer, a Canon Ambassador, and has travelled extensively across Canada for over 10 years. In 2008 she founded Red Works Photography. Red Works is a dynamic photography company empowering contemporary Indigenous lifestyles and cultures through photographic essays, features, and portraits. Red Works specializes in natural light portraiture and headshots sessions plus event and concert photography. Red Works also provides image licensing, workshops, presentations and print products. Nadya’s photography has been exhibited in group and solo shows across Canada and the United States.
In 2018, Nadya won the Ontario Arts Council’s Indigenous Arts Award. Jurors stated, “Nadya is an intrepid, ground-breaking and influential artist. She has brought an Indigenous voice to portrait photography that recontextualizes images and shows us our true selves.”
In addition to commissioned works, Nadya delivers empowering photography workshops and presentations for youth, universities, and community groups. She currently resides in Tkarón:to on Wendat, Haudenosaunee, Mississauga of the Credit River & Dish With One Spoon Territory.
Photos by Ana Higuera