Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost in Transaction?

Two aboriginal masks could fetch millions at art fair
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011

(commentary on the above noted article by Angus, your Native Perspective.)

That old adage: “Art will fetch what the market will bear.”  It’s also known too, in the art world, if you’re a dead artist, your art is worth a lot more. Most of us are familiar with artists like Da Vinci, Monet, the Group of Seven, and Michelangelo and their respective artworks and what they command and demand “in the market.” While aboriginal art in any form is a large part of cultural expression around the world, it is two masks from Alaska, this time, garnering a lot of attention. Why?

Photos posted in the GLOBE AND MAIL
“What makes the masks so valuable are their provenance and historic import, their museum-like quality and relative rarity and, oh yes, their beauty.”

The Yup’ik native masks are from Western Alaska. Typically, from an American perspective, the people there are known as Eskimo/Native American while in Canada, they could be considered as Inuit. An Erico Donati had acquired them in 1945 for $325 and $160. Now, the asking price?...2.1 million dollars for one and around 2 million dollars (US) for the other. Mr. Donati won’t be basking in the windfall though. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 99.

“Instead, it’s Donati’s heirs – and the Canadian art dealer working for them – who stand to be showered by a cascade of cash…”

While major artworks are attached with names,... names to these masks are unknown, long lost in transaction by a deceased trader who acquired these masks shortly after 1905 subsequent to witnessing ceremonial dances. Who knows what those aboriginal dancers received in trading those masks in what the 2011 antique show in Manhattan is now considering could be the cream of the crop.

Common practice though, this type of auction is the irony: whoever acquires these masks will want anonymity…names also lost in transaction. What goes around comes around?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Canadian Rangers...Lone Rangers?

“Canadian Rangers tackle native youth suicide
Tragedy that has ravaged isolated northern regions hits too close to home for some members”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL January 04, 2011 and written by a Christie Blatchford.

Canada’s former residential school system has been attributed to a lot of the current social challenges in Aboriginal communities across the country. One of the challenges as noted in the above noted article is the high rate of suicide amongst the youth of today.

As some of you may know, the Canadian Rangers are comprised of First Nations, Inuit, and M├ętis who, mainly for sovereignty reasons, patrol their respective isolated areas: largely with intentions of reporting any peculiar/suspicious activities by unknown/foreign parties to federal officials.

Scientists say our bodies are wired for self-preservation…a need to survive…be alive. There are many true to life stories of those who persevered through dramatic and traumatic experiences in order to stay alive. No wonder there is a mystery to suicide. Some say it’s very difficult to define and a complex event.

I, as one who did experience 13 years of residential school, know a number of my former friends who did end their life by suicide. Still, I think it’s too simple to attribute the effects of the former residential school experience as the sole cause.

Grand Chief Stan Beardy of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) of northern Ontario says, “we (have) lost one youth every ten days. He said the most obvious culprit (of suicide), is what he called “the greatest evil in all this,  “are the devastating after-effects of the federal government’s residential schools policy, which saw seven successive generations of NAN Aboriginal youngsters removed from their families and communities and institutionalized, the purported goal being their assimilation.”

While not true regarding all residential school Survivors, the Chief goes on to say, “…you never see them showing affection, and you probably know that children need constant reminders that they’re important, that someone cares. I never hear that from residential school survivors.” The Chief is right on with that ethic.

While a Board member on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, an organization attributed to dispersing funds to Aboriginal communities who wanted to address the legacy of physical and sexual abuses in the former residential schools, I adamantly argued the need to ensure projects fulfilled the inner needs of people especially their sense of significance. In fact, I wanted to amend the criteria for eligible projects to outline how they would fulfill that need. Too bad, that idea was voted down. Apparently, suicide is alive and well.... an oxymoron?

Analysts say a lot more people feel the desire for suicide but very few act upon that feeling. Those who do commit feel expendable and alienated and that on one will care and therefore, the best solution is death. So, who cares?

“The Rangers got involved (with NAN First Nations), Sergeant Peter Moon told The Globe and Mail, because in the past year, instructors recognized that two of their own – they were Junior Canadian Rangers, the group for 12-18 year-olds – were suicidal and we’re able to save them. “We feel we have a duty of care to the Rangers and Junior Rangers and to our communities,” Sgt. Moon said. We’re not social workers…But we want to know how to help…”

Unlike the Aboriginal Healing Foundation who has spent over 400 million dollars trying to address the issue, the Canadian Rangers are affecting Aboriginal youth by merely telling them that they are noteworthy. Good for them.