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Bonnie Devine and Cheryl L’Hirondelle among recipients of Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts

Cheryl L’Hirondelle, an interdisciplinary, community-engaged artist and singer/songwriter, performs at the University’s 2017 Convocation Ceremony. Bonnie Devine is an installation artist, video maker, curator, writer and faculty member at OCAD U. Photo credit: Canada Council of the Arts

Two members of the OCAD University community are recipients of the 2021 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts – the most prestigious distinctions to recognize excellence in visual and media arts in Canada.

The awards celebrate the remarkable careers of Bonnie Devine, Associate Professor Emerita and Founding Chair of the Indigenous Visual Culture Program (pictured above, at right), and interdisciplinary artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle, an OCAD U graduate and member of the University’s Indigenous Education Council (pictured above, at left).

“On behalf of OCAD U, I extend our congratulations to both Bonnie and Cheryl on receiving this deserving honour, one that celebrates their outstanding achievements and commitment to their respective artistic practices,” said Ana Serrano, OCAD U President and Vice-Chancellor.

About Bonnie Devine

An installation artist, curator, writer, educator, and a member of the Serpent River First Nation of Northern Ontario (Anishinaabe/Ojibwa), Devine’s work has emerged from the storytelling and image-making traditions that are central to Anishinaabe culture.

Though formally educated in sculpture and installation art at OCAD U and York University, her most enduring learning came from her grandparents, who were trappers at Genaabaajing (Serpent River) First Nation, on the north shore of Lake Huron.

Using cross-disciplinary approaches and iterations of written, visual and performative practice, Devine has explored issues of land, environment, treaty, history and narrative. Her installation, video and curatorial projects have been shown in solo and group exhibitions and film festivals across Canada and abroad.

Her work has been recognized with numerous scholarships and awards, including an Eiteljorg Fellowship for Contemporary Native Art in 2011.

“Devine’s impactful art practice, commitment to bringing forth an Indigenous voice, contribution to revisionist research and post-secondary education—particularly for Indigenous students—make her a candidate worthy of this honour,” said Celeste Scopelites, Director of the Art Gallery of Peterborough who nominated Devine for the award.

In her role as the Founding Chair of OCAD U's Indigenous Visual Culture program, Devine developed curriculum, taught classes, built ancillary programming, and developed services to support OCAD's growing Indigenous student population and has provided a critical Indigenous perspective within the art and design academy.

Learn more about Bonnie Devine through a video portrait produced by the Canada Council for the Arts, Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

About Cheryl L’Hirondelle

Of Cree/Halfbreed and German/Polish ancestry, Cheryl L’Hirondelle is an interdisciplinary, community-engaged artist, a singer/songwriter and a critical thinker whose family roots are from Papaschase First Nation, amiskwaciy wâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta) and Kikino Metis Settlement, Alberta.

Her work critically investigates and articulates a dynamism of nêhiyawin (Cree worldview) in contemporary time-place with a practice that incorporates Indigenous language(s), audio, video, virtual reality, the olfactory, sewn objects, music and audience/user participation to create immersive environments towards ‘radical inclusion.’

As a songwriter, L’Hirondelle’s focus is on both sharing nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) and Indigenous and contemporary song-forms and personal narrative songwriting as methodologies toward sonic survivance. She has exhibited and performed widely, both nationally and internationally.

“In current times of political, cultural and environmental upheaval, the world is in desperate need of artists like Cheryl L’Hirondelle, who can help us to create new social formations and to bridge knowledges, communities and histories,” said the group of individuals who nominated her for the award. Nominators included the O’kinādās Collective (Peter Morin, Ayumi Goto, Stephen Foster), France Trépanier, visual artist, curator and researcher, and Dr. Julie Nagam, Canada Research Chair, Associate Professor, University of Winnipeg.

L’Hirondelle is the recipient of two imagineNATIVE New Media Awards (2005, 2006), and two Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards (2006, 2007). She holds a master’s degree in Design from OCAD University’s Inclusive Design program (2015) and is a member of the University’s Indigenous Education Council.

She is currently completing a practice-based PhD with SMARTlab/University College Dublin, Ireland. Cheryl is also the CEO of Miyoh Music Inc., an Indigenous niche music publishing company and record label.

Learn more about Cheryl L’Hirondelle through a video portrait produced by the Canada Council for the Arts, Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts