Mnjikaning First Nations artist Keesic Douglas wants to trade with you.
Setting up shop at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island, Keesic’s Trading Post is a throwback to the old tradition of bartering goods and services. In exchange for food, songs, poems, pottery, stories, coffee beans, dark chocolate, blankets and other cool things, Keesic offers to shoot your portraits, headshots, music videos, audition tapes and mini doc about your arts practice. It’s quite a generous bargain for those who can book his time.
“I have been researching and making art about trade for the past eight years. My Masters of Fine Art project focused on the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket and the impact of the fur trade on Indigenous People. I thought about being on Toronto Island, constantly checking my social media and wanting to instead make some real connections,” said Keesic. “I figured the best way to have people come and visit me while I made art was to bribe them! I thought that I would need supplies because the island doesn’t have a store, so I decided to get people to bring me stuff. The trade model had been utilized by Indigenous people since time immemorial, so it just made sense.”
Keesic specializes in video and photography that shares his unique perspective based on his Indigenous heritage. He graduated with a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 2008 and completed his Masters at the University of British Columbia in 2010. Since then, Keesic’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Some career highlights include; solo exhibitions New Landscapes at Toronto Free Gallery in 2012 and Trade Me at the Urban Shaman Gallery in Winnipeg, 2011. He was a part of the group exhibition Anishnaabe: Artists of the Great Lakes that showed in New York City in 2013 and Toronto in 2014. Keesic was also part of a two-person show with a Mexican photographer for Sacred Passages, with shows in Sudbury and Chiapas, Mexico. His video work has been exhibited at Dawson City International Short Film Festival, Culture Shock in Florida, Berlin International Film Festival, Red Eye — a First Nations Perspective in Calgary, and the Alaskan Indigenous Work Film Festival, among many others. His work has been exhibited numerously at imagineNATIVE Film Festival throughout his career.
Artscape is a not-for-profit urban development organization that makes space for creativity and transforms communities. For the duration of his residency, Keesic will be keeping board at Artscape’s Gibraltar Point, one of the spaces they offer in the city to host artistic residencies; both self-directed and programmed by Artscape. By adopting the bartering system to share his art, Keesic is both honouring his ancestors while staying true to Artscape’s mandate.
“What I like about the idea of trade is that it gives everyone an opportunity to utilize my services. I want to help empower Indigenous People especially,” said Keesic. “Having professional head shots or a music video or even a mini documentary about themselves might help elevate their careers or at least their self esteem! We all need to help each other. This is one way that I can do that.”
Six Nations musician Lacey Hill is one of the artists that are looking forward to visiting Keesic’s Trading Post. “It’s a great opportunity to connect not only with new people but to share our unique and amazing gifts with one another,” said Lacey of the benefits of utilizing the trade system. “Acting like our ancestors in a way of trading our gifts and skills with a good mind; coming together like this creates more than just a simple ‘trade’ I believe it creates a bond. It nourishes relationships and it’s something that everyone can participate in because everyone has something special to give! I’m so thrilled to be a part of it and I think it should be happening more often.”
Keesic will be trading with anyone until all of his time slots fill up over his stay at Artscape from April 12 to April 18. If you are interested in trading with Keesic, he can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Keesic’s work visit www.keesic.com.