Canada-Australia exchange profiles and develops Aboriginal artists

“The Only Good NDN (Indian)” (invitation for BEAR WITNESS exhibition at the Parramatta Art Studios, Sydney, Australia)

Left to Right: Consul General Tom MacDonald, The Hon. Virginia Judge MP, Minister for the Arts, Bear Witness, Councillor Chiang Xavier Lim, Deputy Lord Mayor of Parramatta.

DJ/video artist Bear Witness’ solo exhibition.

The Canada Council for the Arts has put Australia on the list of international visual arts residencies with the Urban Indigenous Residency Exchange. A Canadian Aboriginal artist will visit Australia each year to expand their international career experience, collaborate with the local community and exhibit the work of their residency.   

DJ/video artist Bear Witness attracts attention

Ottawa-based DJ/video artist Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas recently completed the inaugural residency and solo exhibition with “The Only Good NDN (Indian)”, a video installation that examines Aboriginal representation in popular culture.

Displayed at the Parramatta Art Studios as an official component of the Sydney Festival, the project was opened by the New South Wales Minister for the Arts and received significant public and media attention. Bear’s residency has already enabled him to attract interest for other exhibition projects. 

The flip-side of the exchange will see Australian artist Kerrie Kenton, of the Darug Nation, undertake a residency at Montreal’s Darling Foundry. For both Bear and Kerrie, the project enables them to develop a body of work through the residency, exhibit and meet with other artists. 

This residency is a direct result of the Aboriginal Curators’ Mission to the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, a project sponsored by the Canada Council and earmarked for expansion in 2010 when an even stronger contingent of Canadian Aboriginal artists and curators will participate.  This year’s Biennale is themed “The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age.” 

The Consulate General of Canada, Sydney liaised closely with the Canada Council, Parramatta City Council and the other sponsors to ensure that this exchange program was endorsed and launched.