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Organized by Catherine Sicot of Elegoa Cultural Productions (Montreal), a social enterprise for artistic production contributing to the development of innovative and engaged communities, Elegoa is the curator and producer of the multidisciplinary France/Canada project with the support of Centre Intermondes – Ethnopôle Humanités Océanes (La Rochelle).
Phase One of the project begins with a research residency and professional days involving collaborations between contemporary Indigenous artists, curators, researchers, Indigenous and Canadian teachers and their La Rochelle counterparts. The project is inspired by the history and museums of La Rochelle, part of whose collections illustrate the history of the colonization of the Americas and in particular that of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
The objective is for a (re)reading of the colonial history presented in La Rochelle museums through an Indigenous lens and through the creation of works of contemporary art. The development of frameworks for the transmission of Indigenous perspectives: the works created will act as an anchor point for the programming of an exhibition in France and Canada, an international multidisciplinary symposium, a series of publications in different formats and the development of educational programs. Disciplines involved include: curating, contemporary art, museology, history, anthropology, pedagogy and other human and earth sciences. The objective of the first stage of the project is to bring Indigenous and Canadian curators, artists, researchers and teachers to La Rochelle to discover the heritage, present their work and discover that of their peers and dialogue during non-public multidisciplinary professional days. The aim is to lay the foundations for collaboration and outline future projects.
With a current population of around 75,000 inhabitants, the small city of La Rochelle was during the 17th century, a second French slave port after Nantes. On the waterfront in Nantes, Professor in Residence in Art, Design, and the Public Domain Krzysztof Wodiczko, in collaboration with architect Julian Bonder (MDes ’96), designed the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in the former epicenter of the French slave trade. As with Nantes, La Rochelle was also a port of departure to the Americas, in particular, to New France (present-day Quebec). Thus the architecture of the old town surrounding the port testifies to the vast fortunes acquired at that time by the families of La Rochelle. This history is also visible through the impressive public museum collections housed in four institutions – the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Maritime Museum and the New World Museum.