Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"The Oka Warrior"

Medium(s): Pen & Ink
May 7, 2006

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High School -Art II- project 2 of the Indigenous Retaliation series, symbolizes the Oka Crisis of 1990, a land, political and nation-to-nation struggle of the Kanesatake Mohawk Nation against Canada. Since the mid 1980's, the Mohawks of the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada had been often feuding and protesting with the Canadian and Quebec provincial government. This crisis started when a golf course was aimed at being extended. Where it extended to was a piece of the Kanesatake-Mohawk Reserve, where near that piece of land laid the sacred burial ground on ancestrial Mohawks. The Mohawks of Oka led countless marching protests against the bulldozing of trees and excavating of land to extend a golf course onto their reservation where sacred ground was not just the burial ground, but all the land the Mohawks have left today. However, Oka believed the land was theirs to do what they wish with, and that this land aimed at being bulldozed was not apart of the Kanesatake Reserve.
Soon protests were not enough, and the Canadian government ordered the continuance of extension. But to everyone's shock and suprise, the Mohawks weren't backing down that easy; Mohawk warriors ranging from all ages took up arms, and barricaded the roads leading to the extension spot and through the reserve using cut down trees, concrete blocks and dividers, and after a skirmish with Oka police, a cop car, and chicken as well as barbed wire. For 73 days, the Mohawk warriors actively around the clock guarded the barricades with rifles, their faces wrapped in bandanas for protection against the tear gas that was being shot at them by Quebec-forces.
Warriors as young as 15, stood up for this cause, and centuries worth of opressed anger exploded into one standoff that reminded everyone, both Native and White, the truth behind what the white invaders have really done to this land and the culture that had once existed. Soon many moral issues came into this one issues where people had to ask themselves, is this how we should be treating Native people, after all that has happened?
Below is a website where it has 1990 TV news broadcasts of the whole Oka Crisis. In this videos and radio recordings, you will learn the key people of this standoff, you will see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears, the unbelieveable treatment of Native Americans you thought had ended long ago. Its still here with us...amongst us. People don't think and see it everyday, but deep inside...the uneducated person of both America and Canada, have a fear and hate for what they don't udnerstand, further because of what they have not been taught; the true history and people of this continent.

Artistically, this was referanced off a famous photo from the Crisis of a 15 year old Mohawk warrior behind the barricades. On his hat is the flag of the Mohawk nation, which has evolved into the overall symbol of Native resistance in Canada and all over the continent by the Native Youth Movement (NYM), a continent-wide warrior society of Native people defending sacred sites everywhere.
On his neck is apart of the face bandana, but this part is choking him. This piece that is choking him as you can see is the national flag of Canada, which symbolizes the encroaching, hatred, and the choking of our lands as they grow smaller and smaller.

---Artist's Critique---

he composition is nicely centered, and is visually balanced by the symmetric fence posts on either side that symbolize the barricade. The only color in this piece is the warrior's warpaint, which serves as a visual focal point for the viewer to see his eyes, which say a lot about his emotions during this crisis.
Changes would be to make the Canada flag choking him a little more noticeable to people, and to show a more choking tightness of the rag, like how it wraps tightly around the structure of his face. Also some shading should have been done on the shoulders and body to not make it look so flat, maybe giving some folds and ridges of the camo jacket to give it more realism. Perhaps also a more worked on barricade behind him instead of just wire, and somehow filling that negative space on each side of the road just so its not total white blankness.
In ways though the negative space and lack of subjects drawn in the background keeps the whole visual focus on the warrior, which this piece is all about.

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