imagineNATIVE FILM FESTIVAL: Robert’s Paintings

The documentary that stood out for me at the imagineNATIVE Film Festival was Robert’s Paintings.

As challenging as some of the subject matter was – the damage caused to generations of First Nations children in the Reservation Schools – because of the strength and talent of Canadian artist Robert Houle and artist / director Shelley Niro, this documentary was infused with vibrancy and optimism.

“As elegant and articulate as its subject, Robert’s Paintings examines the life and career of artist, curator, educator and cultural theorist Robert Houle. Houle’s work is, as W. Jackson Rushing has written, “notable for its sensual formalism and sensitivity to materials and their symbolic properties.” Houle draws from the long and sophisticated visual tradition of First Nations cultures, demonstrating their currency in contemporary art milieus. He also draws on Western art conventions to tackle lingering aspects of European colonization of First Nations people. His vast body of work represents a profound discourse on politics and aesthetics central to Indigenous ways of being, knowing and relating to complex philosophies and histories of oppression, resistance and sovereignty. Niro’s beautiful and compelling documentary paints an intimate portrait of this hugely influential and important artist, widely recognized for his role in the recovery and recontextualization of Canadian Indigenous heritage through art.” (Sited from

Perhaps the most effective way to bring non-Indigenous Canadians into the reality of the trauma is through a dialogue shared via the arts as political discourse has been polarizing and sadly ineffective.

If given the chance to see Robert’s Paintings I highly recommend it as this documentary is an imperative to fleshing out the narrative of Canada’s art history.

More information on imagineNATIVE Film Festival.
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