Nadya Kwandibens: The Red Chair Sessions
© Nadya Kwandibens. Waawaate, Anishinaabe from Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation. Photographed on Stoney Nakoda, Blackfoot & Tsuut’ina of the Dene Nations, Treaty 7 Territory June 16, 2019.
THE RED CHAIR SESSIONS
The Red Chair Sessions is an ongoing open-call portraiture series that places importance on the acknowledgement and reclamation of Indigenous lands and the revitalization of Indigenous languages. This series ultimately disrupts colonial narratives, centres Indigenous Peoples who have been here since time immemorial, and reminds us that we are all guests on Indigenous land.
The colour red represents Indigenous Peoples on the Medicine Wheel and, in this series, signifies Indigenous Peoples’ inherent connection to the land and to ancestral bloodlines. Whether sitting on or standing beside the red chair, one feels grounded and firmly rooted; the act itself and the resulting portrait serves as a reminder of our responsibility to steward the lands upon which we walk.
Accompanying each photograph is text in the subject’s respective Indigenous language or a mix of languages, and can include: names gifted/given in ceremony (written in either English or syllabics), the Nation to which they belong, and the place names of traditional and Treaty areas in which each session occurred. In this way, Indigenous voices are amplified and become a refusal of the colonizer’s language while pointing out the erasure of Indigenous history.
The series is also a celebration honouring the many achievements of Indigenous Peoples and presents a positive perspective for future generations.
Nadya Kwandibens is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) from the Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario. She is a self-taught portrait and events photographer and has travelled extensively across Canada for over 10 years. In 2008 she founded Red Works Photography. Red Works is a dynamic photography company empowering contemporary Indigenous lifestyles and cultures through photographic essays, features, and portraits. Red Works specializes in natural light portraiture and headshots sessions plus event and concert photography. Red Works also provides image licensing, workshops, presentations and print products. Nadya’s photography has been exhibited in group and solo shows across Canada and the United States.
Nadya’s artistic practice builds upon three ongoing bodies of work: Concrete Indians is an open-call series of contemporary urban Indigenous identity and a collective representation of decolonial assertions of resistance and resurgence; Red Works Outtakes is an uplifting portraiture series created to combat the “stoic indian” stereotype; and emergence, another open-call series, focuses on resurgent acts of decolonization by means of transmission and the conveyance of Indigenous intelligence.
Her most recent project is titled The Red Chair Sessions, and is an open-call series that places importance on reclamation of Indigenous spaces / places and languages. She is also currently in the research and development phase for a new multimedia series titled The Kitchen Table Talks that will bring together Indigenous wombyn, LGBTQ2S, and invited settler-allies to round-table perspectives on matrilineal leadership and nationhood with a focus on addressing urgent local and regional Indigenous matters.
Nadya is also a member of the Indigenous Laws + The Arts Collective, the founding body of Testify, a travelling multimedia group exhibition. Testify pairs artists and legal thinkers to work in conversation with each other to create art pieces that explore facets of Indigenous law. Her work in this dynamic exhibition is titled RE:Turning Home and focuses on child-welfare law and the foster care system.
In addition to commissioned works, Nadya delivers empowering photography workshops and presentations for youth, universities, and community groups. She resides in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe in northwestern Ontario.
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