Happy Anti-Canada Day—it’s time to celebrate the country’s Original Peoples.
That’s right, we said it.
In a year of reconciliation, on a nationalized holiday of mostly mindless settler celebration, what better time than now to acknowledge not only the long and continuing history of colonialism that has built Canadians’ Homes on Native Land, but also the strength and resilience of the Indigenous Nations and societies that predated the arrival of Europeans on our shores?
That’s what Kanien’kehá:ka DJ/VJ and multimedia artist Jackson 2bears is doing.
2bears is marking this auspicious occasion with the release of a full-length version of his incredible video work, Heritage Mythologies, an artful deployment of re-appropriation and remix for decidedly Indigenous purposes.
The piece is part of a 2010 installation and live video remix performance at the SAW Gallery in Ottawa, that has since been included in the Beat Nation touring exhibition. Beat Nation demonstrated the unique ways Indigenous artists are using hip-hop and other forms of popular culture to create new cultural hybrids—in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video.
In Heritage Mythologies, 2bears lets loose his VJ skills on an astonishing array of found footage and cinematic samples sourced from Canadian media, newscasts, CanCon beer ads, Olympic resistance, Canadian rapper Classified’s settler anthem “Oh…Canada”, those iconic Heritage Minute videos, Cape Breton’s singer Rita MacNeil rocking the national anthem, footage from the so-called ‘Oka crisis’, text from residential school reports, right on up to Prime Minister Harper’s notorious 2008 apology for the Indian Residential Schools system. And all set to a rolling hip-hop soundtrack.
Heritage Mythologies is ironic, funny, and a scathing critique of Canadian politics and nationalism.
Not only does 2bears expose the long and destructive misrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples on film and in the media, he does it with an artful, musical eye on the colonial politics at work in how we see and, therefore, how we come to know about the past and present of this country.
Heritage Mythologies closes with a wry twist on that beloved old settler classic, “This Land is Your Land”, which strums along against an onslaught of imagery depicting the historical and continuing faces of Indigenous resistance flashing and crackling in the background.
The juxtaposition is potent, powerful, and a clear reminder of how far we still have to go.
So on this ‘Kanata Day’, why glorify colonial conquest when you can lay bare the deep mythological heritage that still holds sway in the Canadian psyche? Why celebrate a falsely imagined nationalism that overwrites Indigenous nationhood in all its forms when you can champion the work of Indigenous artists committed to the daily struggle of correcting media misrepresentations and representing ourselves on our own terms?
Jackson 2bears challenges our complacency and calls us to account for the inanity of pledging ignorant allegiance to the settler colonial state.
Instead of painting your face with the flag of oppression while shotgunning tallboys of Molson Canadian, or embroidering that maple leaf patch on your backpack ahead of your next drunken hostel excursion through Europe, let’s pay more attention to what Indigenous artists are actually doing with the imposed legacy of invasion.
Artists like Jackson 2bears are reappropriating the weapon of representation to reflect back to us the destructive, colonial reality that’s been carefully hidden behind the false flag of Operation Reconciliation. Time to take it back to the foundations and try again.
Now, who’s ready for some fireworks?
Watch Jackson 2bears, Heritage Mythologies