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Indigenous art proposal selected by Faculty of Law

Visitors to the Faculty of Law building this fall will see a unique Indigenous art installation.

[Hannah Claus and her proposal]
Hannah Claus showcases her proposal, which consists of wampum belts made of translucent purple coloured and frosted clear acrylic sheets and hung vertically from the ceiling of the Faculty of Law building. (University Relations)

“Words that are lasting,” an artwork by Montréal (Tiohtià:ke) visual artist Hannah Claus, has been selected as the winning entry in the Indigenous Art Commission competition held by the Queen’s Faculty of Law.

This goal of the initiative is to introduce Indigenous art into the Gowling WLG Atrium of the Faculty of Law, and is an important element of the law school’s multifaceted response to the Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“This art installation will beautifully represent Indigenous legal traditions and reflect part of the commitment of Queen’s Law to respond to the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report,” says Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law and chair of the commission. 

Ms. Claus’ vision involves a suspended art installation based on wampum belts that will hang from the ceiling in the law school's atrium airy expanse. Made from translucent purple-coloured and frosted clear acrylic sheets, these laser-cut forms will interplay with the natural light that floods the atrium.

“I’m elated to have my project chosen as the artwork,” Ms. Claus says. “Wampum belts are mnemonic aids utilized by the Haudenosaunee and other Indigenous peoples within oral nation-to-nation agreements. They represent legal documents as reflected in this distinct worldview. It seems a fitting acknowledgement, as Queen’s University is located on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.”

This sentiment resonated with the 12 members of the committee who chose the winning entry.

“The representation of wampum in the faculty is representative of the oldest agreements or contracts between not only Indigenous peoples and settlers, but amongst Indigenous peoples as well,” says committee member Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Director of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives. “It’s most appropriate given there are wampum agreements between Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, and so this work is representative of both groups of Indigenous peoples acknowledged as the original landholders.”

Ms. Claus is a visual artist of English and Kanien'kehÁ:ka / Mohawk ancestries and a member of the Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. She teaches contemporary Indigenous art as a sessional lecturer at Kiuna, a First Nations post-secondary institution, in Odanak, Québec, and her artwork has appeared in exhibitions across Canada and the United States, as well as in Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, and Chile.

She is now at work creating “Words that are lasting” with a goal of installing it this fall. Later this summer, Ms. Claus and renowned Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal, a member of the Indigenous Art Commission selection committee, will jointly record a video that will highlight and explore the themes embodied in her artwork.