Seghąxole, my clan Text
by Mariana Muñoz Gomez
The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the way that our sense of togetherness can be interrupted, taken away, and challenged on a global scale. Yet, Victoria Redsun’s work as an artist, poet, and land defender shows us that when we hold our relationships close, expressions of community that might not be easy to see can reveal themselves in times of grief and distress. In this collage series, they engage with personal relationships and expand them into connections that stretch across time and space. Redsun positions themselves in relation to their family and simultaneously positions their family within broader communities—the Dënësųłinë, cross-cultural networks, non-human kin, known ancestors, ancestors who lived long before the artist was born, and a community of Indigenous artists and activists.
As Redsun began making this work while grieving deceased family members, it includes photographs from their family’s archive: images of their greataunt and -uncle, grandparents, greatgreat grandmother, some of the relationships that give the artist strength. The series also includes depictions of Redsun’s non human-kin such as a nighthawk, strawberries, the Red Willow plant, caribou, the Labrador plant, the Tansy plant, a gray wolf, and a blue jay, all of whom have acted as teachers, providers, and protectors.
I am reminded of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s book As We Have Always Done (2017), where she writes about Nishnaabeg spiritual connections between living beings, ancestors, ceremony, practices, and land. While her writing is based in Nishnaabeg culture and theory, Simpson also engages in cross-cultural citation with other Indigenous artists, writers, scholars, and teachers, showing how generative it can be to learn with and from each other. Working from Glen Coulthard’s term “grounded normativity,” a process of creating ethical frameworks that come from placebased practices and are in continual relationship with the land, Simpson discusses Indigenous queer normativity as an embodiment of queerness therein. I was struck by how she articulates that her relationship with the spirit world—within which Indigenous queer normativity exists—makes it possible for this normativity to be expressed in her material world. Simpson states that Indigenous queer normativity makes room for a multiplicity of relationship structures, specifying that this queerness is non-hierarchical, anti-discriminatory, and not simply about sexual orientation or gender. In other words, the author explains that relational structures that are not valued or known within colonial heteropatriarchy are tangible through Indigenous queer normativity.
Seghąxole, my clan enacts this, composed as it is of layers of relation, rendered with a variety of media. A mix of analogue image fragments initially imagined for intimate exchange between family and friends are set in relation to crisp digital elements, reflecting the seamless interrelation of the old with the new, the passed with the living. The composition opposite includes ancient pictographs from the Reindeer Lake region which portray ancient water creators who once walked with the Dënësųłinë́, connecting Redsun, their family, and their knowledge to ancestors from thousands of years ago. The softly underlaid Red Willow plant is a medicine that one offers to their ancestors. When commemorating their great-great-grandmother, Marie Dettanikaeze, pictured on the right side of the image depicting three women among caribou, Redsun also acknowledges the Dene people’s relationship with the caribou who have kept their communities fed and healthy for thousands of years. None of these entities exist in isolation; “from the ancestors to the caribou, and each plant of our lands, we are all connected and have a responsibility to protect and retain our traditional knowledge,” Redsun says. Positioned within stars in the dark sky, another collage memorializes their great-aunt Sophie Merasty, an artist and activist who continues to protect her connections while in the spirit world. “The impact aunties have in our community can only be shown through how we now carry our lives from their teachings.”
In an artist statement, Redsun notes that “amid a global pandemic, environmental destruction, colonialism, and endless warfare, we’re still here.” Their process with Seghąxole, my clan demonstrates that looking inward, engaging with an array of materials, and approaching creative expression as a modality for mourning—for reaching—can prompt an unfolding of something greater than oneself.