A Chatroom
is Worth
a Thousand Words




Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew

Ahasiw's series of rooms reveal his intensely sensitive nature and his acute awareness of his own position of relative privilege within the Aboriginal community. He refuses to forget that there are many of our people still on the streets, and we still have the highest suicide, incarceration and addiction rates.

The rooms are lush with imagery quilted together from archival photos, documentation of past artwork, family snapshots, media images from television and newspaper and even, in one room, a found Polaroid of baby in an incubator. Ahasiw is an established writer as well as a respected artist. His use of archival photos, with their status as factual document (as opposed to lyrical expression), is like the insertion of a quotation into an essay.

Adept in the creation of web pages (he recently became the Web Development Coordinator for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), Ahasiw added elegant, webpage-like navigation to his myriad rooms. You can use these buttons to wander through the rooms on your own, or you can be lead on the path he has delineated by clicking on the dark square that is present in each room (after the first).

In that first room, called "ami_tv_man", a man with a bare torso demands our attention. It is a photo taken sometime in 1983, shot directly from the television during a programme about medical experiments. As central figure and starting point, the man represents the artist. This room is all about Ahasiw. In the upper right corner, a bear skull further identifies him: it's his tattoo, which in turn represents his kokum --his grandmother, bear woman. The fifteen-storey railway trestle, one of the many images culled from the Saskatchewan Public Archives, situates him as a Prairie boy.

In "Repent School", Ahasiw thinks the kids look scared, but I think they are just bored. Unimpressed with the cameraman, probably knowing they will never see the picture he is taking, they wait, never dreaming that some time in the future dozens of simultaneous users would be looking at them on a computer screen.

"AMI_Root_Knife" includes a picture of a seven-foot high cedar tree root he came across in Prince Rupert. Juxtaposed with the photo of a ready hand holding a menacing knife, it sends a clear message: "Our roots are powerful and strong and complex. Sometimes we are forced to protect them --perhaps with more violence than we would like." For me this room is linked to "AMI_Oka_Rocks", a reminder of the Mohawk Crisis of 1990, when the world saw just how far we had to go to protect our roots.

"AMI_Blood_Widow" depicts a black widow spider, all shiny and scary and futuristic. The room is a nod to Isi-pikiskwewin Ayapihkesisak (Speaking the Language of Spiders), his deep and powerful art and poetry website. It also refers to the Cree creation story (which can also be found at that site). Ahasiw is not uncritical of the web. Moreover, he wonders how Native people can make the web, at least our part of it, truly Aboriginal. Is it possible to bring a spirituality, an ethicality, an aesthetic? This room states that we need to believe in our own metaphors.

When I asked him why he’d made so many rooms he said, "They form a constellation that attempts to tell one complex story. There is a desire to say things in a more complete way, to leave a legacy."

Click on a name below
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Marilyn Burgess

Jason Lewis

Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew

Michelle Nahanee

Travis Neel


Sheila Urbanoski

Trevor Van Weeren