Jobena Petonoquot brings together community, art history, colonization, religion and resilience, by carrying family histories and holistic and relational knowledge from her Anishinābe and Naskapi relations into her experiences and rigorous artistic practice. Petonoquot folds the past into the present through a blend of traditional and contemporary media, including beadwork, fibre art, installation, printmaking and photography.
Petonoquot presents the natural world as a place of healing, as well as ongoing colonialism. Floral beadwork emphasizes the cyclical patterns of nature, and moccasins push fallen branches back into the earth to nourish the soil. Through Victorian-era aesthetics, she pays tribute to the rebellion of her ancestors, who continued to hunt and trap on the land, even though it was prohibited by colonial powers. This self-sufficiency enabled the survival of Indigenous ways of knowing.
Petonoquot also takes a critical and sensitive look at the relationship between colonization and Christianity, where religion was used as a justification for genocide. To confront this, Petonoquot created a durational performance in which she buried beaded baptismal gowns in the earth of her home community of Kitigan Zibi, later unearthing them for exhibition, thereby performing a ritual of mourning and healing, without forgetting.
As a method of storytelling and memory-keeping, beading is a form of cultural resilience. Likewise, Petonoquot’s work takes a positive approach to encouraging people to talk, think about, and look further into the history and ongoing experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
This exhibition was realized with the support of the City of Ottawa, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Jobena Petonoquot, Resilient Repugnance: Buried dress, 2018, photograph (part of a triptych), 76.2 x 76.2 cm. Courtesy of the Artist