Introducing, Niki Little, imagineNATIVE's new Artistic Director
Niki Little | Wabiska Maengun is a mother, softball coach, artist/observer/community-curator and arts administrator. Little is a founding member of The Ephemerals art collective with Jaimie Isaac and Jenny Western who are long-listed for the 2019 Sobey Arts Award. She is of Anishininew / English descent from Kistiganwacheeng (Garden Hill, FN). Her interests lay in Indigenous community-based artistic and curatorial strategies that investigate cultural consumerism, Indigenous women, and Indigenous economies. Little recently started as Artistic Director at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. Before imagineNATIVE, she was the Director for the National Indigenous Media Arts Coalition. As Director, Little organised Listen, Witness, Transmit, a national Indigenous media arts gathering in Saskatoon, SK that included roundtables, performances, screenings, and exhibitions. As an independent curator, Little co-curated níchiwamiskwém | nimidet | my sister | ma soeur, the La Biennale d’Art Contemporain Autochtone 2018 (BACA) in Montréal and surrounding areas (May 03-June 19, 2018) and co-hosted Migration a three week on the land residency with Becca Taylor in Demmitt, AB grounded in exploration around Indigenous economies and research as ceremony (August 13-31, 2018). In 2018, Little was the recipient for the RBC On the Rise Award through the Winnipeg Arts Council.
Learn more about Niki below.
Photo Credit: Kali Spitzer (2018)
What Indigenous-created film had the most impact on your career path?
Dana Claxton's Buffalo Bone China (1997) one channel installation, video and mixed media, and Arnait Video Productions' Piujuk and Angutautuq (1994), and Lisa Jackson's short film Savage (2009).
What inspired you to get involved with the film industry?
I've always been interested in the arts as a whole. Jackson Beardy is from my community and growing up, I saw woodland paintings as well as cultural pieces that my aunties would make. Both carried stories, visual code, and connections. It's those stories and visual systems that drives my passion for Indigenous artistic expression and the range of innovative tools that transmit Indigenous knowledge. I appreciate the way Indigenous people utilize technology and connect it back to Indigenous cosmology/territory linking it back to their community, ancestors, and land.
What impact do you think on-screen art has on the Indigenous community?
On-screen Indigenous art has increased the recognition, representation and a call for action for Indigenous people. It has celebrated the humour, the resistance and decolonial love within our communities.
Who is your favourite director?
Darryl Nepinak who creates his films for his nieces and nephews, for the next generation.
What do you see for the future of Indigenous art/filmmaking?
I see distinct collections of work that are identifiable by Indigenous nations, territories and theories. I see more folks/artists at the table to be able to speak for themselves and to carry those that have paved the way for them towards a more inclusive future. I see more practices/policies for artists, activists, and community members to be able to their work in nourishing sustainable ways.
What excites you most about your position as Artistic Director at imagineNATIVE?
Everything! It's imagineNATIVE!! I am so excited to work with the team, organization and artists. I see my role as supporting art and supporting community. Simple as that.
What's your favourite iN Festival moment?
In 2010, Darryl Nepinak, Jason Baerg and I brought Indigenous youth from the North End Arts Centre in Winnipeg, MB to attend the festival as guest artists. The youth were able to witness Darryl, and his collaborator Marcel Belfour win the Drama Pitch Prize award for their project Band Office. They were so proud to see a member from their community excel in a way that carried Indigenous humour and concepts that were relatable to them. Additionally, on that same trip, the youth were able to attend the group exhibition RE:counting Coup curated by Cheryl L'Hirondelle. One teenager, in particular, was enthralled with Archer Pechawis's commissioned piece Memory_V2. He stayed with that piece during the opening for over 30 minutes. Archer chatted with him, and the youth talked about that experience for the rest of the trip, especially responding to the loss of language and Indigenous songs and the possibility of new songs and reclaiming language.