New exhibition at MEG – Artists urge us to respect the environment

Artists encourage us to respect the environment

In its new installation, “Environmental injustice – Indigenous alternatives”, the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG) presents works by committed creators.

Pascale Zimmermann Corpataux

Posted today at 19:33

It would be wrong to stop at the title chosen by the Museum of Ethnography (MEG) for its new annual exhibition, as off-putting as it is convoluted: “Environmental injustice – Native alternatives”, to be seen from September 24 and until ‘to August 21, 2022. For a university conference, pass, but for a general public event …

We would be wrong because the captivating installation contains a wealth of information to reflect on the need to preserve what surrounds us, as do all the artists who have been invited to create works for the Geneva hanging and to co-produce. We would be wrong because the title, basically, summarizes exactly what it is about. “We are dealing with climate change, the degradations it causes on the environment and the means put in place by the populations to face it. This is why we are talking about alternatives: it is not a question of solutions strictly speaking, but of ways of relating to one’s natural environment and of taking care of it ”, summarizes Carine Ayélé Durand, curator and curator. . “And we are talking about injustice, because it is about the rights of indigenous peoples and the abuses that are done to them when they could be avoided.”

“The harm done to indigenous peoples could be avoided.”

Carine Ayélé Durand, curator and curator of the exhibition

The chief curator of the MEG collections is not afraid to use the word autochthonous: “It is not common, it is true, but people have to learn it because today it is everywhere. It is the French word for those whom the Anglo-Saxons call the indigenous people. The word “indigenous” was used during the colonial period. We no longer use it. “

Consent requested

First milestone in a new way of creating exhibitions, desired by the director of the MEG, Boris Wastiau, “Environmental injustice – Indigenous alternatives” does not focus on a corner of the world, an ethnic group or a practice, it crosses the globe and visit its inhabitants. We travel from the Moroccans of the oasis of Imider, the largest silver mine in Africa, having organized a sit-in for nine years to protect their water pipe, to the Sami artist Maret Anne Sara, which shows its resistance to the destruction of reindeer by piling up deer remains in Norwegian courts.

Through the five sections that structure the exhibition, we learn how the indigenous peoples, representing 5% of the world population, take care of 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. Carine Ayélé Durand made a point of asking, at each stage, the consent of those in question. Tedious, but essential for those who want to initiate a new mode of demonstration.

The exhibition “Environmental injustice - Indigenous alternatives” is divided into five sections, each of which begins with an artistic intervention.

The theme of the exhibition, it will be understood, is serious. Its content, as abundant as it is nourishing. You cannot visit it whistling with your hands in your pockets. However, force-feeding is avoided because each step of the course opens with an artistic intervention whose creators were not simply invited to express themselves at the MEG, but contributed to the development of the concept and its implementation. .

Video games and masks

Through video games and songs, Anishinaabeg (North American) artist Elizabeth LaPensée relays the women’s march for thousands of kilometers to heal polluted water by transporting pure water. Through her work of braiding the bark of red cedar, Kandi McGilton, Ts’msyen designer (northwestern Canada and the United States), helps keep her culture and her native language, sm’algyax, alive. His works made up of thousands of colored pearls are dazzling.

The masks by Alaskan sculptor David Robert Boxley illustrate the traditional tale of

A crucial point is highlighted in the third section, “reciprocal responsibilities”. Two Alaskan artists, poet Gavin Hudson and sculptor David Robert Boxley, have joined forces to illustrate, through a dreamlike tale and stunning painted cedar masks, the fact that every element on earth, human or not, is responsible for another item, and so on. The visitor adopts four points of view – a young prince, a salmon, the river and the cedar – until he becomes aware of their interdependent relationship. A mirror totem is used as a display for the masks representing the four protagonists of the tale and which can be worn during theatrical performances.

Men and women have for the most part lost sight of this link with their environment and failed in their responsibilities towards it, hence the crisis situation experienced almost everywhere in the world, presented in the fourth part of the exhibition.

The three artists from Alaska who participated in the development of the hanging and created works especially for Geneva: Kandi McGilton, David Robert Boxley and Gavin Hudson (from left to right).

This immersion in an often heartbreaking reality needed a happy ending. This is the last stage of the journey, entitled “the time of the meeting”. A monumental work descends from the ceiling to the center of a circular bench on which visitors are invited to sit to get to know each other. Sami reindeer herder clothes were cut into colorful strips by Maret Anne Sara and assembled using an ancient knotting technique to Malaysian fabrics and pieces that were the first bag created by Kandi McGilton.

Further on unroll a superb poem by Gavin Hudson, “The great tapestry of the cedar”, which one reads in front of a mirror, and the text “Stand up, you the islander”, which tells in video the crossed gazes of two poets, one from the Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, the other from Greenland, Aka Niviâna, both faced with rising waters.

The role played by Geneva in the international recognition of indigenous peoples, a process which began in 1923 at the young League of Nations, was continued in 1977 by the Conference on Discriminated Populations and culminated, in 2007, in the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was conveniently recalled at the start of the hanging.

“Environmental injustice – Indigenous alternatives”, Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG), bd Carl-Vogt 65, from September 24, 2021 to August 21, 2022. Free admission on September 24, 25 and 26 from 11 am to 9 pm, 022 418 45 50,

Pascale Zimmermann has been a cultural journalist since 2007, head of the Culture section until 2020. She deals in particular with museums and exhibitions, literature, archeology, anthropology, history and photography.


Posted today at 19:33

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