Walking with Saskatchewan is our inaugural exhibition from the Permanent Collection series of year-long exhibitions that will explore the depths of our collection and the roles it plays in our society. “Saskatchewan” comes from the Cree word kisiskâciwan (or kisiskatchewani sipi), which describes a river that flows at a walking pace. Referencing both this Cree origin and its anglicization, Walking with Saskatchewan examines how Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples represent and relate to this land as we walk it together. Drawing on the permanent collection and welcome some distinguished visitors (through promised gifts and temporary loans that help fill gaps in our collection or point towards areas of future development), this exhibition presents images of the land, its peoples, and its dreams.
Places are often defined by topography, a common ecology, and shared histories or cultures; but Saskatchewan has an arbitrary form — a trapezoid, imposed on maps and the land itself by surveyors and colonial politicians. It comprises several distinct natural environments and its original inhabitants lived according to unique and diverse traditions, speaking several languages. In more recent times (especially since the region became a Canadian province in 1905), people from all over the world have come to live here, drastically expanding that diversity. For all its eclecticism, Saskatchewan is still more than some lines on a map. We live here together in treaties, in shared experiences, and in our dreams. Artists have always played a central role in imagining this place, in the very creation of Saskatchewan. Focusing on work from the 1860’s to 2000, this exhibition looks at how both the land and our art carry our cultural memories, and provides a glimpse into how institutional collections act as caretakers for these vital histories.
The pictograms featured in the Permanent Collection’s logo, and in the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s new visual identity, come from unattributed words spoken by Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island to articulate the spirit of our treaties: “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the rivers flow.” These words (which also grave the exterior of our building in Duane Linklater’s LED text work Kâkikê / Forever) suggest that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples will harmoniously share this land with care and respect in perpetuity. As we build and care for a collection that is meant to provide a permanent home for our cultural objects and histories, we include these symbols as a reminder to ourselves of our responsibility to live the commitment of these treaties, while respecting all that cannot be contained within our walls.
ABOUT THE COLLECTION
The MacKenzie Art Gallery was founded on the collection of its namesake, Norman MacKenzie (1869-1936) who bequeathed his collection to the University of Saskatchewan Regina Campus (now the University of Regina). The MacKenzie is proud to continue to steward the U of R collection alongside works that have been collected by the MacKenzie since our independence in 1990. The MacKenzie now cares for over 5,000 objects spanning a period of over 5,000 years; is the home to one of the most important collections of Indigenous art; has the most comprehensive collection of Saskatchewan art; strong representations of Western Canadian painting, ceramics, and folk art; and key works from national and international artists. As such, we have an obligation to write the vital, yet underrepresented art histories that we are uniquely poised to address. We play a singular role in developing not only the art history of the Great Plains, but we also seek to continually revise that history through new voices and knowledge.