First Nations Artist Forum

XENALEKEN: First Nations Artist Forum 

Saturday, November 9, 2013  
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Panel Discussion at 1 p.m.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
1040 Moss Street

The role of Aboriginal art in decolonization is the theme for XENALEKEN (pronounced XWENG ALA KUN), a First Nations Artist Forum that will feature a dynamic panel discussion on the contributions of Aboriginal artwork to the Indigenous Resurgence Movement.

Moderator Gerald Taiaiake Alfred, a Professor and founder of the University of Victoria's Indigenous Governance Program, will be joined by First Nations artists lessLIE, Marianne Nicholson and Tania Willard. Meet the artists and learn about the philosophy, themes, perspectives and motivation behind their work.

The event will include admission to the Gallery, including the exhibition Urban Thunderbirds/Ravens in a Material World, and light refreshments.

The title of the event is a SENĆOŦEN word meaning “rapid tides”, which refers to the ongoing, transformative impact Aboriginal artists are making in their communities.

View the First Nations Artist Forum poster. [PDF - 1.3 MB]


Tickets are $5 and are available online at Eventbrite.  Tickets are limited so please purchase tickets in advance to ensure your participation in this event.


Gerald Taiaiake Alfred, Moderator
Gerald Taiaiake Alfred is A Kahnawake Mohawk author and educator. He was born in Montréal in 1964 and educated at Concordia and Cornell. Taiaiake has lectured at universities in Canada, the United States, England, and Australia. He is a Professor in and founding Director of the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria. Taiaiake specializes in studies of traditional governance, the restoration of land-based cultural practices, and decolonization strategies. He is a prominent Indigenous intellectual and advisor to many First Nation governments and organizations. Taiaiake has been awarded a Canada Research Chair, a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the field of education, and the Native American Journalists Association award for best column writing.

lessLIE, Panelist
Born in 1973 in Duncan, BC, lessLIE's “colonized, Catholic, Canadian name” is Leslie Robert Sam. His “decolonized artist's name” is lessLIE. Picasso once said that “art is a lie that tells the truth.” lessLIE is living this perspective in the spirit of trickster traditions. lessLIE has a Bachelor of Arts degree in First Nations studies from Malaspina University College. While working on this undergraduate degree, lessLIE began to study Coast Salish art in 1995. lessLIE completed a Master of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on Coast Salish art at the University of Victoria.

Marianne Nicolson, Panelist
Marianne Nicolson is a Dzawada'enuxw (Kwakwaka'wakw) artist based in Victoria. She works in a variety of media to express Kwakwaka'wakw concepts both in traditional forms (such as painted dance screens and sewn dance aprons, made to function in ceremony and other community contexts) and in mixed media works and installations meant for public spaces and art institutions. Her work addresses the boundaries she acknowledges and seeks to create in her own practice. Committed to community cultural practice as well as making space within international art venues for Indigenous knowledge and values, she truly explores the border zones between these arenas and the possibilities for translation each implies.

Nicolson is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria in Linguistics and Anthropology, studying the Kwak'wala language in order to deepen her application of its conceptual structures. Recent solo shows and installations include The Return of Abundance (Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 2007) and The House of Ghosts (Vancouver Art Gallery, 2008). She is currently working on a project for the Vancouver Airport dealing with the issue of rivers and dams and another with the new Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan, which deals with the turbulence of the "the nation state.”

Tania Willard, Panelist
Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation, works within the shifting ideas around contemporary and traditional, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures. Willard has worked as an artist in residence with Gallery Gachet in Vancouver's Downtown East Side, the Banff Centre's Visual Arts Residency, Fiction and Trading Post, and as a curator in residence with Grunt Gallery. Collections of Willard's work include the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Aboriginal Affairs art collection, TRU, and Kamloops Art Gallery.

Willard's recent curatorial work includes Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture, shown at Vancouver Art Gallery in 2012, featuring 27 contemporary Aboriginal artists currently touring until 2014. Willard was awarded a curatorial residency with Kamloops Art Gallery, locating her work within Secwepmeculecw. Willard will be working with Gallery for the next 18 months.

For More Information

For more information, contact or 250.361.0363.

Presented By

The XENALEKEN: First Nations Artist Forum is presented by the City of Victoria in partnership with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and sponsored in part by Kitchens of Distinction.