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OCAD U offering virtual Nigig Regalia Residency this summer

Two Indigenous members wearing regalia

Pictured above: a powwow at OCAD U to mark the launch of the Indigenous Visual Culture program in 2012. Image credit: A. Griffith

OCAD U is offering a special virtual Nigig Regalia Residency program from May to August. This residency, open to Indigenous students and the community through the University’s Indigenous Visual Culture (INVC) program, is supported by a generous grant from the Inspirit Foundation.

The nine-week program is focusing on regalia, the Indigenous cultural garments and items worn during ceremonial gatherings, powwows and other significant events. By focusing on connection, participants will be prepared for the eventual return to in-person events.

It also builds on the practice of online beading circles, which have emerged during the pandemic as a way for many Indigenous people to find comfort and community, incorporating instruction, workshops, guest artists, beading circles and studio time.

“Part of the goal of this residency is to share who we are and what we do within the INVC program with the broader Indigenous community, including the families of prospective students,” says INVC Delaney Chair Susan Blight.

“We want mothers and fathers, aunties and uncles, and grandparents to know more about our program and to feel good about their family member studying with us. We also want to bring education back to an Indigenous intergenerational, community-based way where families can learn together,” she says.

Blight says the program is part of the important work in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. For her, the Nigig Regalia Residency is about connecting and re-connecting through making, through cultural expression, through sharing, and carrying Indigenous ways of knowing and being into the future.

The 2021 program was developed by Blight, Ryan Rice, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Dr. Sarita Srivastav, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Indigenous students will have the opportunity to learn from multiple Indigenous guest artists during the residency. Two of the confirmed guest artists are OCAD U alumna: garment artist and designer Justine Woods, and violist, composer and Two Spirit grass dancer from Obishikokaang, Melody McKiver.

The featured Indigenous creative leaders in art and design from across Canada will be sharing technical processes of making regalia, but also sharing knowledge about the Indigenous methodologies and ways of knowing that inform the making and wearing of regalia.

Indigenous regalia is connected to culture and identity and builds strong and vibrant community. The residency is designed to empower Indigenous students to tell their own stories and gain technical skills they can employ to mentor, create and build vibrant, successful careers.

The opportunity to invite guests and participants from across Turtle Island is a unique advantage to a remote learning environment. Regalia is culturally specific, and through both design and function, communicates histories, meaning and identity, so having a diverse array of artists, makers, dancers, and knowledge-keepers makes the Nigig Regalia Summer Residency truly inclusive.

Inspirit Foundation’s funding allows the program to be delivered virtually and accessed in a unique and inclusive way.

“We are excited about the program’s potential to bring together a diverse group of Indigenous cultural creators,” says Sadia Zaman, CEO of Inspirit Foundation. “Dialogue and skill sharing across different generations and communities, as well as artistic traditions, will help participants shape new narratives grounded in their experiences and culture.”

The Indigenous Visual Culture program at OCAD University combines practice-specific and interdisciplinary studio-based learning and courses in the visual, cultural, social and political history of Indigenous peoples.