Artwork: Dance_as_though_the_Ancestors_are_watching_2019 by Sonny Assu

(Un)Named Maker online

“This series aims to counter how we, as a modern pop culture, use social media influences to indicate our own status. Whereas Chief Assu could walk into a room and make his presence felt, we take to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and talk about how important our breakfast was — which has no relevance to anyone but ourselves. I was able to briefly wear his Chilkat blanket. As soon as it touched my shoulders, I felt the weight of his status course through me like an electric shock. It brought me to tears.”

Sonny Assu 2015, interviewed by Becky Rynor at the National Gallery of Canada

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The display is curated by leading Canadian (Kwakwaka’wakw) artist Sonny Assu. In the summer of 2019 Assu was an artist-in-residence at the Sainsbury Centre, hosted by the research project 'Beyond Spectacle: Native North American presence in Britain'. Sonny’s work utilises both pop art and traditional North West coast practices to interrogate cultural identity and western constructions of indigenous culture. Assu said: "The Sainsbury Centre, world renowned for its unique collection and 'homey' feel, has two kinds of artworks in its collection: works by named Western artists and unnamed works, by Indigenous or non-European artists, which are marred by the spectre of colonial collection practices. Through the act of decolonising museum spaces, we can learn to recognise how these objects came to be here, and why they remain nameless and silent. Shifting the museum narrative away from the colonial mindset is a focal point within indigenous art discourses, and this conversation will continue to grow, challenging collections worldwide."