Ahní Rocheleau (descendant: Huron-Wendat)

Artist Statement for Survival Journey: Yahndawa’, Fleuve/Rivière, River, Rain

The artworks that have emitted from my being have long engaged concepts of ecosystem disregard and cultural amnesia, in recent years with climate at center. The work interrogates art historical canons that monumentalize the colonial project of dismissing communal collaborative approaches to life, opting for an ideology of competitive models; that rejects respect for our earth mother, instead gorging itself on boundless resource extraction at all costs to health and well-being. Environmental exploitation serves as my impetus and primary source for a counter-narrative of reconnection to habitat consciousness, accomplished through sculptural installation, object sculpture, art performance and two-dimensional works of art. As Camillus Lopez, Tohono O’odum storyteller is known to have stated “If you look at nature and can’t see yourself in it, then you are too far away.”

In my ancestral lands known as Wendake on a peninsula on Lake Huron (originally named Lake Ouendat), thirty-thousand Huron-Wendat nation people died of smallpox, measles, starvation, and war. Three-hundred survived, among them were my two great-grandmothers (Ahchiouta’a) on my mother’s (Änen’enh) side: Otri-Ho-Andet and Annennontak, wife and daughter of Huron Chief Nicolas Arendanki Annennontak. Upon the Bear Clan’s Chief’s death, in 1649 the group of survivors left our ancestral lands located on a peninsula on what is today called Lake Huron (the French name for the Ouendat/Wendat people) and undertook a six-week survival journey to establish a new home in Québec, Canada.

From an inner knowing, Survival Journey: Yahndawa,’ Fleuve/Rivière, River, Rain is about time travel, not of a physical, breathing form, but of spirit-beings crossing generations from the 17th century to the present.

Within the work, we see references to crossing time, to river geography, to rain. From the days of moccasin-making, in this case, red, black, and yellow geometric linear abstraction embroidery, up to the digital age, evidenced by demarcation lines signifying computer-generated processes, -we are reminded of the living presence of indigenous people, -cultural agents, curators, actors -living in this day and age.

Ecosystem disregard and cultural amnesia is foundational to earlier works as well: The River Within: a binational collaborative project/El Rio Desde Adentro: una colaboracion binacional, a project with artists in Colombia and many more enumerated below. Survival Journey: Yandawa’ generates from these places of connection throughout my lifetime since youth with Otri-No-Andet and Annennotak seemingly working their life stories into my subconscious and creating a presence throughout decades of visual production.

My ancestors’ river passage paddling in birch-bark canoes through rains and rapids through Georgian Bay, French River, and St. Lawrence Seaway was vital and with purpose. With the same spirit, our own survival journey is omnipresent as we each face the climate emergency, with its excessive rains causing floods, and its rain shortages in areas of drought, and as we contend with an accumulation of cultural violence that unleashed it.

Time-travel documented connections points:

• red embroidery for Otri-Ho-Andet river journey

• Le Petit Phantôme (chaloupe)

• 3-D Design boat form

• Primordial/Underived

• The Invisible

• Bronze Shoe

• Camouflage Series

• The River Within

• The Fertile Soil Series

• Giant Handkerchief

• War Memorial with Sponges

• Mnemonic Device

• Who Decides

• Blu Deeksha

• One-of-Many