Lindsay Delaronde’s performance art is ground breaking, eloquent and powerful. It resonates with all the dark places …
When someone says squaw, “they are stereotyping native women,” explains artist Lindsay Delaronde, or Katsitsakaste (strong flower), an Iroquois Mohawk. “It implies oppression, marginalization, exploitation and sexualisation. Her recent show, In Defiance, in which Delaronde photographed 32 indigenous women, herself included, has shattered the silence — perhaps tacit approval? — surrounding this topic.
In Defiance which appeared at the Legacy Gallery in downtown Victoria is ‘in defiance’ of the word ‘squaw’. Delaronde helped each woman build self-confidence and find power in their vulnerability, both in the images they chose and the personally written statements accompanying them.
In Defiance speaks powerfully about a topic that until recently was taboo. It resonates with all the dark places conjured up by the Highway of Tears and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Delaronde breaks new ground, for her performance art carries gut-wrenching social messages. It is emotional, powerful and, most of all, timely and very relevant.
As the first Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria, and only the second in Canada, Delaronde has a commanding platform. Appointed in March 1, 2017, Victoria’s Year of Reconciliation, her term runs to the end of 2018. She is passionate about Indigenous culture and issues.
“My goal and my purpose for the residency is to pave the way for young emerging indigenous artists and youth, and help them understand that anything is possible.”
Delaronde is an excellent choice. She was born and raised in traditional culture on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, experiencing three things that would guide the rest of her life. First, Indigenous culture is rich, deep and satisfying. She also observed the resilience of Native people around her rewriting their existence and healing through culture. Third, she recognized from an early age that she was born to create art.
At 16 years age, Delaronde attended a Fine Arts program in Montreal, then moved to British Columbia in 2005 to study at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design. In 2007, she moved to Victoria, where her daughter, now 10, was born. She completed a Master of Fine Art degree at the University of Victoria in 2010. Concerned about the marginalization of her people, she completed a second Master’s degree, this one in Indigenous Communities Counselling.
Delaronde is a talented and diverse artist practicing photography, beadwork, printmaking, video and painting. In 2009, she completed the War Canoe project where she transferred current and archival photos onto cedar paddles. She co-illustrated an indigenous children’s book, The Corn Chief. She also makes moccasins including the beadwork. Her main focus, however, is performance art, in which she addresses indigenous issues, makes strong, provocative social statements and often works collaboratively with others.
Delaronde uses art for solace. “We don’t heal in isolation,” she says, explaining her philosophy. “Our worldview is about coming together and doing ceremonies so we could be visible; we could be seen. We could be part of community. The individual healing is the group healing—one is the other.”
On the same day that Delaronde received news of her appointment, she also suffered the tragic loss of her partner, who passed away unexpectedly and suddenly. She began her residency in a state of grief and shock, which was expressed in her art.
We Bring Medicine to the Streets, showed her anguish. In this collaborative performance with another artist, a downtown area, where there is high traffic of homelessness and drug addiction, was washed with medicine water made of cedar. During the performance, the duo sang a song and prayed with the goal of helping individuals frequenting this site in their daily struggle with poverty, grief or abandonment.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “There are not enough words to say for the lives lost on that stretch of sidewalk. I pray the medicine wipes its souls.” “So glad you are doing this important and inspiring work.” “The most beautiful act of humanity”
In her first year as Indigenous Artist in Residence, she has been indefatigable in holding numerous shows, workshops and public performances, most carrying thoughtful social messages.
Pendulum – An Indigenous Showcase is Delaronde’s most publicly celebrated show to date. Consisting of eight acts and 40 people showing native culture from across the country, it played at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre to a full house and standing ovations. Delaronde enacted a solo tribute to her late partner. Many of the audience were in tears.
Katsitsakaste’s performance art is ground breaking, eloquent and powerful. It is a giant step in healing her own pain and the long suffering of her people. It also contributes significantly to reconciliation.