Canada Malaysian Art Exhibition uses art to explore similarities and difference


The Malaysia-Canada Indigenous Communities Applied Arts Exhibition will showcase the applied art and design of two different countries that are coming together in hopes of sharing their culture, tradition, and history with the public.

The exhibition, which opens on Feb. 20 at the Pendulum Gallery on the corner of W. Georgia and Hornby, seeks to explore the differences and similarities between the two cultures through their works of art. Visually stimulating, functional, and with a story to tell – these pieces of art can be used in everyday life.

Sam Carter is a professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is also the co-curator of the exhibition. He describes the selections as being inspired by mengei, a Japanese term meaning peoples’ art.

Judy Chartrand is an artist who specializes in traditional First Nations art such as porcupine quill work, caribou hair tufting, moose hair link work, beading and more. She describes art as a way to “bring about an awareness of one’s reality.

Chartrand believes that art can help break down stereotypes that have been developed over time. She also explains that pieces of art can represent pain or discontent, which gives the people a better understanding and a way to connect to an artist’s reality.

According to Carter, the exhibition will consist of a variety of functional objects such as jewellery, weaving, textiles, baskets, toys, tools, and even treasures and souvenirs that are traditionally inspired.

He says that the exhibition seeks to bring together students, politicians, professionals, educators, residents, visitors and tourists from all around the world. He also explains that an online learning tool, which will include a virtual gallery of the exhibition, will be used in schools around the world.

To understand the effort and work that has gone into supporting and encouraging the arts of the Canadian indigenous communities, Carter describes the wonderful array of products designed by the artists that are being displayed at museum gift shops at the Vancouver International Airport.

“Canada should celebrate the great jump forward over the past years that have encouraged Canadian indigenous communities to celebrate and acknowledge their traditional art and make it available to people from all walks of life,” he says.

Click pictures to zoom

Photos courtesy of the Pendulum Gallery

Through her works of art, Chartrand tries to convey the anger she feels from the racism the First Nations people have endured since their territories were first invaded.

She explains that she feels that she has done her job when the pieces of art that she creates push buttons and create a feeling of unease amongst people. She states that the message she wants her art to represent is that “whatever happened, it was not due to First Nations inability to ‘pull up their bootstraps,’ it was due solely to white racism.”

Tim Strang, marketing manager at Hill’s Native Art Gallery says that art is essential in bridging cultures. He explains the importance that galleries have in displaying works of art. “As cultural ambassadors and curators…the benefits to the native communities are economic and educational and we see our role as helping to preserve and promote a West Coast way of life,” he explains.

Carter believes that an exhibition of this kind can shed light on the accomplishments and progression the indigenous communities across Canada have had, and continue to have, in their works of art. He says that the international recognition that they have received for their product designs and applied arts, have allowed them to experience “great pride, income, and satisfaction.”

According to Carter, Vancouver is a great city to showcase this event, given the hard work that indigenous communities in Vancouver and British Columbia have put into pioneering their works of art. In addition, he mentions the exhibition in the context of bridging traditional and innovative culture and how these two different communities share strikingly similar stories that can be seen in their different and distinctive designs. Moreover, he describes how looking at their works of applied art, one can most definitely get a glimpse of their history and pain.

Carter describes the products that they create as something that you will want to hold on to forever. After all, their histories have helped shape their art and the stories they convey.  According to Chartrand, an exhibition of this kind can help indigenous communities “around the world gain insight into other lived experiences, which in turn, end up being very similar right across the board”.