Rebecca Belmore was born in Upsuala a small community in northwestern Ontario. After completing high school in the nearby city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Belmore attended the Ontario College of Art and Desgin in Toronto, Ontario from 1984 to 1987.
In 1993 Belmore moved from Toronto back to her family’s home territory in the Sioux Lookout area of Ontario. It marked the beginning of an intense search by Belmore to gather knowledge of the land, the language and the history of the Anishinaabe people that she felt she’d missed.
Belmore is internationally recognized for her work, which draws on her Anishinaabe heritage, and addresses ideas about Indigenous history, place, identity and justice through sculpture, installation, video and performance. Her works are influenced by her indignation and sense of injustice about acts of violence, from the disappearance of women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the massacre of Indigenous women and children at Wounded Knee South Dakota.
In 2005, Belmore was chosen to serve as Canada’s official representative at the Venice Biennale of Visual Art, the world’s oldest and most prestigious international exhibition of contemporary art, the first Indigenous woman to do so.
“My way of working is largely based on immediate experience,” Belmore wrote in an artist statement for a Canada Council news release. “The performances I have created over the years often directly responded to the place in which I found myself. Location and memory are key elements in my approach to making art. I have always had a strong interest in trying to imagine where we have been.” In the same statement, Belmore also spoke about her Indigenous heritage, and how it helps to shape her sense of mission as an artist. “I believe I am just beginning to understand my role, particularly as an artist who has inherited an Indigenous history.” (Belmore, 2004)