Sixteen Women, on show at FIL, is an online exhibition by Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) and Diné (Navajo) artist Cherry Smiley that seeks to give women survivors of sexual violence a platform to speak back to the man or men who have attacked them. A photo of a survivor and her words, directed to the man or men who have raped or sexually assaulted her, was released each day of the 16 Days of Action Against Violence Against Women, from November 25 – December 10, 2014.
My name is Cherry Smiley, and I am a Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) and Dine’ (Navajo) woman living, working, and studying on Mohawk territories in Montréal, Quebec. I am a proud First Nations woman, feminist, artist, and activist.
My art practice is one that is deeply passionate and inherently political. I see art as part of a larger strategy for social change; It is a necessary and conscious activist tool, one that is able to communicate ideas and tell stories in ways that are honest, powerful, and engaging. But I also see art as something that is beautiful and deeply embedded in my culture, traditions, and spirituality; it is a conscious and sometimes unconscious expression of who I am as an Aboriginal woman. My work is grounded in my stories and in the stories of my sisters, in feminist theory, and in the teachings handed down to me from my Elders.
As an Indigenous woman, my art, politics, spirituality, and culture are always inter-related - my approach is inherently holisitic. I have the honour of speaking at conferences, forums, and rallies on the issue of violence against Indigenous women and girls and am honoured to do this work locally, nationally, and internationally. I am passionate about educating and engaging communities.