PROFile: Julie Nagam

“Art is social and political, and as I continue to build and develop work and see new work, that statement only becomes more true,” Julie Nagam says.

Nagam is the chair of Indigenous Arts of North America and an associate professor at The University of Winnipeg. She’s also an artist, and she and Jamie Isaac co-curated INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE, which is currently set up at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG).

It’s the WAG’s largest contemporary Indigenous art exhibition, which includes 12 commissions from artists.

“Jaime and I were interested in really exploring so many different kinds of mediums – so from sound installation, to painting, to transformative beadwork, to 2-D sculptures,” Nagam says.

The gallery takes up 17,000 feet at the WAG, and the exhibition (which opened on Sept. 22) will go on until April 22, 2018.

“I think at this stage in the game, if galleries and museums aren’t displaying Indigenous contemporary work, I think it does an injustice to our society and does injustice to Canadian society,” Nagam says.

Nagam doesn’t have any pieces in this exhibit, but she does have commissions with Nuit Blanche, the Winnipeg Arts Council and a project called Our future is in the land: if we listen to it, which will debut in the Smithsonian Institution in New York on Nov. 10.

Nagam hopes, and thinks, that her work has a long-term impact.

“I do get very kind emails and responses from students that they feel excited and happy by the work I do,” she says. “So whether that means scholarly research or curatorial work or artistic work.”

Q&A

What is one thing that you’ve learned from your students?
Even if you’re the prof, you’re also still the student. The learning is reciprocal.

What is something you do in your spare time?
Figure skate, snowboard and play with clay.

What’s your favourite thing about yourself?
My ability to laugh.

What was your worst grade in university?
I failed a class, an anthropology class. I failed at 49 per cent. I got into a fight with the prof. It was a bit of a shock …

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
I think I would just take Wonder Woman. I think I would want the ability to rejuvenate, like Mystique from X-Men or Wonder Woman, like that ability to transform.

Published in Volume 72, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 19, 2017)

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