PROJECT SPACE / 20 May to 30 June 2016
SITUATE / 11 April to 22 May 2016
Rosalie Favell is a photo-based artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Drawing inspiration from her family history and Métis (Cree/English) heritage, she uses a variety of sources, from family albums to popular culture to present a complex self-portrait of her experiences as a contemporary aboriginal woman.
14 April 1.30pm
RMIT Gossard Space, Building 49, Level 3
67 Franklin Street, Melbourne
Rosalie Favell is a photo-based artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Drawing inspiration from her family history and Métis (Cree/English) heritage, she uses a variety of sources, from family albums to popular culture to present a complex self-portrait of her experiences as a contemporary aboriginal woman. Her work has appeared in exhibitions in Canada, the US, Edinburgh, Scotland, Paris, France and Taipei, Taiwan. Numerous institutions have acquired her artwork including: National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (Ottawa), Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian(Washington, D.C.), and Rockwell Museum of Western Art (Corning, New York). She has received numerous grants, and won prestigious awards such as the Chalmers Fellowship, the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunten Award and the Karsh Award. A graduate of Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, Rosalie holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico. She has studied and taught extensively at the post-graduate level. She has worked with grassroots organizations in Winnipeg with Inuit educational groups in Ottawa and Nepalese women’s groups in Katmandu.
Before I begin, I wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather here today. I also wish to pay my respects to their elders both past and present and those that are here tonight Uncle Colin Hunter Junior and any others that are with us tonight. It’s my pleasure to be here tonight, I’m a storyteller and visual artist and my job tonight is to open this show ‘Facing the Camera’ for Rosalie Favell. I have 5 mins to do this, so I’ll get on with it.
Five weeks ago I met Rosalie for the first time, we’d been in contact earlier in the year after a mutual friend Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie hooked us up. Our friend Hulleah is also a photographer and on many occasions I’ve nearly called Rosalie, Hulleah, that’s how close we’ve become and I’ll miss her when she leaves. When I first met Rosalie she asked me if she could photograph me. I hesitated because I always feel awkward having my photo taken, I find it a confronting experience. In my culture, the Maori culture, there is a proverb that accentuates the value of humbleness.
Kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka.
The kumara or sweet potato never speaks of its own sweetness.
Thinking on this and Rosalie’s reference to Aboriginal people’s problematic relationship with photography and the camera as another weapon in the wars of domination, I realised how incredibly brave Rosalie is, in terms of documenting Aboriginal artists through her portrait series. In her Santa Fe suite, 175 artists responded to her call out during the 2012 Indian Market Festival (one of the most prestigious intertribal fine arts market in the world). An important event to Aboriginal artists looking to promote and sell their works and earn an income. During her time in Australia Rosalie photographed 25 artists for Facing the Camera, bringing the number of Aboriginal artists she has photographed to a total of 308. I’m sure this will continue to grow over time and I’ve been in Rosalie’s ear about going to Aotearoa, New Zealand, I’d be happy to be tour guide.
If there is one thing about Rosalie’s work that resonates strongly with me, its her passion and dedication towards documenting Aboriginal artists so that the young ones coming through will know who we are. Thinking back on my youth, I can’t recall learning about any Maori artists during my education. I do remember studying New Zealand artists Colin McCahon and Rita Angus but not Ralph Hotere, Toi Te Rito Maihi or Kura Te Waru, artists I admire today.
I did really well in Art at secondary school, I won prizes and all sorts of things. When I finished college, I didn’t do anything with my art, I didn’t know it could have been a career path. I got a job as a merchandising cadet for Aulsebrooks, now Arnotts. My family were poor, there were 8 kids and an alcoholic dad, so there was pressure on me to finish school, find a job and help out financially. Perhaps my life may have been different if I had known about artists such as Ralph, Toi and Kura. Perhaps they would have inspired me to have made different choices about my life, I’ll never know.
What I do know, is that work such as Rosalie’s ‘Facing the Camera’ is extremely important, it’s valuable and must be shared. In ‘Facing the Camera’, I had to overcome my anxiety about being photographed, I wrestled with being humble but was strengthened by knowing that I was contributing to a greater cause, the sharing of a great story, the story of Aboriginal artists and arts communities around the world. As an artist I make work that gives life to the untold story and the retelling of stories. My audience is anyone and everyone. The story, told or untold is central to what I create. My work speaks for itself, I’m not accustomed to being the work as I am in this show, its both exciting and unsettling at the same time.
Rosalie sees the photograph as a performance space. Me I see these photographs before me as stories, the told (those I know/have met) and the untold (those that I have yet to know/meet). I thank Rosalie Favell for the opportunity to work with her and to be a part of her work. I thank her for her friendship and look forward to watching her project grow over time.
In closing there are two things I wish to leave with you. The first is something that was given to me by a South African man many years ago, it helped me to understand why I do what I do as an artist. It goes like this.
“A story that must be told, never forgives silence” [repeat], as told to me by Mbulelo Mzamane. Mbulelo was an author, poet and academic and the first post-apartheid Vice Chancellor and Rector of the University of Fort Hare. He was described by the late President Nelson Mandela as a “visionary leader and one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals”. And finally, in closing its customary in my culture to sing a waiata or song after a speech. The song I’ve chosen is Tutira Mai written by Wi Huata, it’s a song about uniting different cultures, thinking as one and acting as one. He originally wrote it to teach his children about how the iwi or tribe worked together as one to support each other. Like Wi, I think Rosalie has done just that, united Aboriginal artists from different cultures by bringing us together and showing us as one through her work ‘Facing the Camera’.
-Julie Tipene O'Toole, 2016
Rosalie Favell is a guest of RMIT SITUATE through the SITUATE Canadian Indigenous Arts Residency Exchange. This partnership is made possible by the generous support of the University of Lethbridge.