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Narhî Wasagabiich

Hamilton Artists Inc Billboard Project

June 3, 2019 – May 24, 2020

Catherine Blackburn’s photographic installation on The Inc.’s exterior Cannon Project Wall, Narhî Wasagabiich, celebrates traditional Indigenous garment-making and adorning, practices that express women’s care for their families and communities. Reinventing beadwork techniques she learned from her loved ones, Blackburn uses contemporary plastic Perler beads to create futuristic “new world armours” that empower and protect their wearers.

Although Indigenous people do not all share a single culture or language, they do share a history of colonialism. Blackburn takes stylistic inspiration from diverse First Nations across Canada to pay homage to the matriarchal leaders from these communities. The colourful, intricate armour serves as a powerful reminder of women’s strength and resilience in the face of oppression. Narhî Wasagabiich, meaning “Strong Spirits” in the Stoney Nakoda Îyithka language, is part of a series called New Age Warriors in which Blackburn uses garment-making, beadwork, and photography to envision a future where the voices and contributions of Indigenous women, two-spirited, and non-binary persons are acknowledged and celebrated.

This installation is part of a national billboard exchange between Hamilton Artists Inc., AKA Artist-run and PAVED Arts in Saskatoon. The three-way collaboration also includes billboard installations by artists Meghan Price at AKA/PAVED from July to August 2019, and Janet Wang at AKA/PAVED from July to August 2020.

photos credits: Mashal Khan, Abedar Kamgari

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