Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery

By: Bill Reid Gallery

Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery
September 22, 2021–June 5, 2022

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art presents the Canadian premiere exhibition of Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery from September 22, 2021–June 5, 2022. The solo exhibition by award-winning designer, artist, and activist Sho Sho Esquiro showcases meticulously crafted couture gowns,  textiles, paintings and photographs to celebrate the beauty, strength and resilience of First Nations communities in the face of historical and ongoing trauma. Curated by Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery inspires conversations around genocidal colonial practices, confronts the theft and murder of Indigenous women and children, and honours activists on the front lines.

“This powerful and vital exhibition of contemporary fashion sheds an urgent light on the devastating impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery, an international law that falsely gave European settlers dominion over the lands and Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere,” says Belarde-Lewis. “Through Esquiro’s artful storytelling using materials from her Yukon homelands, patrons are asked to confront challenging truths about Canadian history that still have catastrophic consequences today. Given the ongoing recovery of Indigenous children at the sites of former residential ‘schools’ coupled with the ongoing fight against corporate extraction of natural resources, Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery shares a critical perspective on the lived experiences of First Nations communities.”

The exhibition features a striking collection of the artist’s contemporary gowns and outfits, crafted using trade cloths, furs, leathers, hides, beads and shells sourced directly from the Yukon. Esquiro’s gowns have been shown at New York Fashion Week and she represented Canada at Jessica Mihn Anh’s Fashion Phenomenon atop the Eiffel Tower. The exhibition depicts her deeply personal connection to the beauty of the Yukon’s physical landscape, as well as the intricate and sustainable textile practices of Esquiro’s ancestors. Trade cloth and furs serve as the basis and inspiration for Esquiro’s remarkably detailed gowns and offer further commentary on the dwindling access to natural and land-based materials for her clothing, due to extractive industrial practices.

A series of ancillary events will support Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery, including the Bill Reid Gallery’s exhibition opening on September 21 at 6:30 pm, which will take place on Facebook Live as well as in-person for a limited number of registered attendees. Throughout the exhibition run, several curatorial tours will be offered; as well as workshops related to clothing, weaving, and textiles; and an artist talk. A 60-page, full-colour catalogue with curator and guest essays will be published in mid-November.

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Image: They Stole the Children from the Land, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2019. Photograph courtesy of Susan McCallum