Eruoma Awashish is an Atikamekw artist who grew up in the community of Opitciwan in Haute-Mauricie, Quebec. After earning a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary art from Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, she moved to St-Prime, Lac-Saint-Jean, where she creates her work.
Her main source of inspiration is the meeting of the traditions of her people and those of other First Nations with the modern world. She enjoys playing with the concept of duality, and her double identity—Atikamekw through her father and Québécois through her mother—allows her to “better understand the differences that distinguish these two peoples and create space for dialogue through her work,” as her Facebook page states.
Eruoma has been making waves with exhibitions and various cultural events and publications for a number of years already. She has recently received quite a lot of attention on Quebec’s Aboriginal cultural scene as a young entrepreneur. With her clothing company, called AWA REBEL, she hopes to “manifest great pride and commitment to shared, engaged, human values.”
“The idea of starting up my own clothing company had been running around in my head for a long time, especially seeing companies like Billabong, Roxy and so many others using Aboriginal motifs and symbols in the design of their products. They are our intellectual property, our symbols; they mean something to us, so we should reappropriate what belongs to us. People are willing to buy this type of product, so why not offer them an authentic ‘made by Atikamekw’ product? All these aspects really motivated me to start up my business.”
She also considers fashion to be an important form of expression:
“I feel that fashion is a way to express who you are. I like using Aboriginal motifs and engaged messages when creating my clothing. Most of these emphasize belonging to our culture, which is both traditional and contemporary at the same time, as it has evolved and is still relevant. AWA REBEL is more than just an opportunity to wear a nice t-shirt; it also allows us to express pride in being Aboriginal or to share the same values as members of the First Nations.”
She currently devotes most of her time and energy to running her business and creating her work. In the near future, she would like to finish her master’s degree in research and creation, which she has already started at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.
“I’m still in the process of getting my business out there. Eventually, I’d like to get it known across Canada by going to powwows and other Aboriginal events. I’m lucky to be able to make a living from my art and do it full time.”
Eruoma is currently exhibiting her work in Montreal until June as part of the Conseil des arts de Montréal on tour event, supported by Land InSights, which is a Montreal-based association that promotes Indigenous cultures. She has another exhibition lined up for the fall of 2016, with the Canadian Guild of Crafts. She is also a member of the board of directors of Ashukan, which is a cultural space and pillar for the development of Aboriginal art and culture.
What about you—who’s your favourite Aboriginal artist?