Many Indigenous peoples tell incredible stories through their artwork. Here are seven artists from different communities whom you should check out.
Matthew Monias, known by his stage name Mattmac, is a blind Oji-Cree rapper from Garden Hill First Nation, a reserve of the Island Lake region close to Winnipeg. Surrounded by gospel music as a child, it is clear that music has played a very strong role in his life. Though he is blind, his disability never stopped him from becoming a self-taught pianist, guitarist, and drummer.
As a musician, Mattmac has just over 5,500 monthly listeners on Spotify, with his song “Paradise” having been streamed over 50,000 times. Mattmac is definitely going places: his voice is incredible, and “Paradise” is very catchy and has a great beat. He also has an album in the works and plans to release it this year, so you should keep your eye out.
Lauren Crazybull is a Blackfoot and Dene painter based in Edmonton and is the first Alberta Artist in Residence. Their website showcases stunning portraits, filled with vibrantly coloured and beautiful patterned backgrounds. I love the way the paintings bring out the character and detail in each painted individual. Crazybull has painted gorgeous mural paintings around Alberta as well, one at the gallery at dc3 Art Projects and one at Mount Royal University.
Billy-Ray Belcourt is a celebrated Driftpile Cree writer from Alberta. He was a 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a 2016 Rhodes Scholar, and is currently working at the University of British Columbia as an assistant professor in creative writing. He has written three poetry books.
I recently listened to a short excerpt of his most recent book, A History of My Brief Body, and I was incredibly blown away by the beauty of his storytelling through poetry. Referring to his parents, he wrote, “They made a family out of nothing but the human need to be a part of something less resonant with toxicity than solitude.”
I hope to get a hold of more of his poetry; it is transformative and paints such a vivid picture.
Teresa Young is a Métis painter who focuses on surrealism and abstract acrylics. Originally from British Columbia, her paintings are incredibly dynamic and equally as captivating when brightly coloured as well as when sketched in black and white. Her art is intricate and filled with many small details that bring the piece to life. Her stunning paintings are sold on her website and on Le Galeriste as pillows, tote bags, apparel, and even face masks perfect for COVID-19.
Melody Charlie grew up in the Ahousaht First Nation community located on Flores Island. Charlie has a captivating photography portfolio: from capturing portraits, to natural landscapes, to moments in black and white. Each piece conveys more than a moment in time, narrating a story beyond the frame. It is the kind of art that speaks for itself.
Alexandra Lazarowich is a Cree director, producer, and screenwriter with a passion for sharing Indigenous stories. From Edmonton, she is accredited for the direction of films that have premiered internationally, and she even won a Special Jury Award for Directing at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 for Fast Horse, which she wrote and directed.
Leela Gilday is a singer and songwriter of the Dene Nation. She grew up in the Northwest Territories and has performed in many countries around the world, including Australia, the United States, around Europe, and of course Canada. She has released five albums and has over 2,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
What I love about Gilday’s music is the clarity in her voice and her ability to connect with you through song. Even upon listening to her music for the first time, I felt something so familiar and comforting about her songs.