The winner of this year’s City of Vancouver Book Award isn't a novel or a collection of poems, but rather an intensely illustrated art-exhibition catalogue.
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories—by Yuxweluptun, Museum of Anthropology curator Karen Duffek, and Secwepemc First Nation artist-curator Tania Willard (published by Figure 1 and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC)—has been named the recipient at the 2016 Mayor’s Arts Awards, held tonight (October 3) at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre.
At the ceremony, Yuxweluptun said, "I dedicate this book to the aboriginal people of this world and to the dyslexic people who have had as hard a time writing as I did."
The characteristically feisty artist also informed the audience, "You're on my land. Your rent is due!" He called for a moratorium on logging trucks in the province, opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, action on declining salmon populations, and a change away from the colonial name of this province.
"These are some of the problems I paint and this is the reality we live in," said the artist.
Handed out annually, the award and its $3,000 purse are meant, in the City of Vancouver’s own words, to recognize “works which demonstrate excellence and contribute to an appreciation and understanding of Vancouver’s history, unique character, or achievements of its residents”.
The pieces by Yuxweluptun shown in the book, alongside discussions of the artist’s major themes, unquestionably amount to such a contribution, with their sharp, sonorous reflections on Vancouver’s colonial history and the scars it has left on the landscape and aboriginal cultures.
"Through his art, he offers ways in which we might think differently," Duffek said at the ceremony.
The retrospective includes commentaries from Michael Turner, Lucy Lippard, Marcia Crosby, and Glenn Alteen alongside Duffek and Willard discussing the meaning of Yuxweluptun’s work amid First Nations struggles for autonomy, justice, and environmental preservation. "I asked them to speak their minds," Yuxweluptun said.
An independent jury picked Unceded Territories from a shortlist that included Lorimer Shenher’s That Lonely Section of Hell (Greystone Books) and The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press), edited by Wayde Compton and Renée Sarojini Saklikar.