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"Heritage" Constructions and Indigeneity: Considering Indigenous Cultural Centre Design in Canada

Heritage Changes the Local SocietiesMuseumsHeritage and Mobility
Heritage changes placeCo-construction of heritageCommunity-based heritageHeritage makersPostcolonial Heritage
Regular session
11:00, Tuesday 7 Jun 2016 (1 hour 30 minutes)
In November 2014, artists and thinkers including Jimmie Durham, Michael Taussig, Rebecca Belmore and Paul Chaat Smith convened in Calgary and Saskatoon for “Stronger than stone: (Re)Inventing the Indigenous Monument,” an international symposium which served to foreground the most critical issues facing Indigenous memory-making and cultural preservation today. Propositions for new types of monuments (or anti- monuments in many cases) were made that were specific to the Indigenous worldview and served to honour Indigenous people on their own terms, often emphasizing the importance of landscape, language and oral storytelling in providing a “moral and practical guide to the culture.” Building off the proceedings of this symposium, this session seeks to expand the dialogue into the architectural arena and the role that Indigenous cultural centres play in the presentation of heritage. As Luke Willis Thompson points out, it is important to remember that “The word ‘heritage’ refers to something that cannot be recovered.” Furthermore, Indigenous cultural centres are necessary precisely because of the colonial dismantling of Indigenous culture in this country. More positively, Canada has recently seen a surge in the construction of these centres as part of nation-wide Indigenous cultural revival. In many cases, such as with the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, they are outward-facing and tied to important economic rejuvenation plans. However, what does it mean when a Western form of building or institution is employed to represent an Indigenous culture? What happens when a non-Indigenous architect is chosen to construct a centre, and characterize a cultural ethos? What is most salient about the existence of these centres? This session invites papers which assess the successes and/or failures of these centres as keepers and presenters of cultural heritage (papers may focus on individual examples and not necessarily the field as a whole) as well as projects which present alternatives to this mode of cultural preservation. Artists and architects are also encouraged to apply.
Concordia University
PhD Student

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