July 17, 2021 – October 21, 2021
huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed
Artist Multiple Artists
Curated by Claire Geddes Bailey and Jesse Birch
Eliot White-Hill Kwulasultun
lichen with Danielle Stevenson
Heather Kai Smith
Nancy Turner and C-tasi:a Geraldine Manson
Justine A. Chambers, Elisa Ferrari, and Christian Vistan
Adam Manson and Xulsi’malt Gary Manson
Billy-Ray Belcourt, S F Ho, and Manuel Axel Strain
huli u’tu staluẃ – life by the river
A river’s body requires a bed. Lying in the middle of the city, the Millstone River has its headwaters at Brannen Lake. Flowing through farms, neighbourhoods, and parks, by golf courses, penitentiary grounds, and marshes, and under roads, highways, and railroads, it enters the sea at Sxwuyum, the site of the now-displaced Snuneymuxw village. Through waterflow and sedimentation, the river has been shaping its own bed since time immemorial – wearing down soil and rock while carrying nutrients to the riverine flora and fauna that in turn provide life and stability to the riverbank. Since the 1850s, the Millstone River has also been shaped by coal mining, sawmill waste, power generation, farming, blackberries, ivy, dynamite, and construction.
In 2017 New Zealand’s Whanganui River was given the same rights and legal standing as a person. Rivers in India, Ecuador, and Colombia have also been attributed with legal rights. These shifts in legal standing not only recognize the environmental precarity of these complex living ecosystems, but also the inalienable connections between these rivers and regional Indigenous communities. While attempting to grant the Millstone River legal standing is not part of the scope of this project, we endeavor to treat the river as a living entity. Programs that would normally take place in the gallery are located along the Millstone’s riparian corridor, foregrounding the environmental and cultural resonance of this site.
Thank you to Adam Manson and Elder Xulsi’malt Gary Manson for providing the hul’q’umi’num’ title, huli u’tu staluẃ, which directly translates to “life by the river.”
Considering the river’s shape through time and space, huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed takes place in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks the question: what is progress?