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Nanaimo Art Gallery presents Story Keeping



Nanaimo Art Gallery presents Story Keeping

Nanaimo Art Gallery is pleased to present Story Keeping, an exhibition of new and existing work by Calgary based artists Brittney Namaakii Bear Hat and Richelle Bear Hat.


Story Keeping


Opening Reception: January 27th, 7 to 9 pm. All are welcome


Special Event: Story Keeping: A Conversation
January 28, 3 pm
Please join us for a special conversation on intergenerational storytelling with Brittney Namaakii Bear Hat, Richelle Bear Hat, and Snuneymuxw artist and storyteller Eliot White Hill Kwulasultun.
Limited capacity: Please RSVP


Story Keeping is an exhibition of new and existing work by Mohkinstsis (Calgary)-based artists Brittney Namaakii Bear Hat and Richelle Bear Hat. Drawing from their shared Blackfoot and Dane-zaa Cree heritage, the artists look to storytelling practices and legacies of land and language displacement through their experiences growing up in both rural and urban environments. Through sculpture, photography, drawing, and video, they share how stories can connect people and places, and ask what can be told, and what should be held close.

From blankets to frying pans, snapshots to Memojis, Richelle and Brittney work with images and objects as tethers to family connections. The collaborative 2016 work, Little Cree Women (Sisters, Secrets & Stories), presents a series of displays tied to family knowledge. Dried mint leaves and beaded moccasins, willow and birch bark, charcoal and braids of the artists’ own hair are set in shadow box frames. These beautiful objects are catalysts for memories and stories. They not only carry great significance for the artists, but they are also sites of contemplation about shared learning and intergenerational care.

The value of sharing language across generations is explored in  Richelle’s video works: In Her Care, and nitssapaatsimaahkooka (she shared with me). In nitssapaatsimaahkooka personalized animated emojis, known as Memojis, become a means of communication through which the artist learns Nitsiipowahsin language from her grandma, Alona Theoret. As they take turns speaking, memojis presented on large video screens reveal many of the emotions that come to the fore when learning one’s own language. In a new special version of this work for Nanaimo Art Gallery, Richelle connects with Snuneymuxw Elder Shxuysulwut Lolly Good to share language across place and nation.
Blanketing is a custom shared across many indigenous cultures including Blackfoot and Cree communities, and is often tied to celebrating individuals during coming of age ceremonies or other rights of passage. For Story Keeping Brittney Namaakii Bear Hat has created a new large scale sculptural work that showcases blankets with family photographs printed on them. Brittney often works with cutouts from snapshots as a way of reconstituting stories and memories from her home territories, which are far from urban Mohkinstsis (Calgary) where both she and Richelle live and work. Printing these images on blankets, and incorporating sculpture and drawing into the display, Brittney adds deeper symbolic connection to these cherished pictures.

Brittney Namaakii Bear Hat and Richelle Bear Hat’s works carry a warmth and generosity towards their audiences, and yet they are careful with what they share, paying respect to the Story Keepers or original owners of images or mementos depicted. In this sense the title Story Keeping refers to an act of holding on to stories, as well as sharing them.

Story Keeping is the fourth exhibition through which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks the question, What stories do we tell?


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