Land Back Camp co-founder tells stories through photography at Waterloo exhibition

WATERLOO — About seven years ago, Bangishimo picked up his first Nikon camera from Henry two days before a trip to New Zealand to put his photography skills to the test.

Although the photograph is new to the local Anishinaabe organizer and community activist, Bangishimo said they would find out as they go, “and that’s what I did,” they said during an artist talk Tuesday on the campus of the University of Waterloo.

Now, seven years later, Bangishimo’s “On the Land” project is on display outside Conrad Grebel University College. This is the third time the artwork has been exhibited on campus since its launch on the Waterloo GeoTime Trail last summer.

The Land Back Camp co-founder’s art installation features eight stories and portraits of individuals, a couple and families that all answer the same question: “What does it mean to you to live on this earth ? »

The eight photos show residents sitting in their homes. QR codes in the bottom right corner lead to audio clips of their answers to the question.

Among those featured in the artwork are Amy Smoke – another co-founder of Land Back Camp – and her daughter Skye, as well as a family who live in the historic Brubacher House in Waterloo.

Tuesday afternoon, the Bangishimo, hair in mohawk, walked under the tent erected in front of their installation. They wore sunglasses, feather earrings, a blue skirt and a blue shirt, both with rainbow ribbons.

Bangishimo talked about their early days in photography and how a year-long backpacking trip a few years ago sparked their desire to tell other people’s stories.

“I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, but I just wanted to go and be on earth,” Bangishimo told a crowd of around 30 people.

The journey took them to places like Nepal, India and New Zealand.

“Next thing you know, indigenous leaders and chiefs from the mountains of India, Nepal and New Zealand started inviting me into their spaces and I started taking pictures,” said Bangishimo.

“I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to use my photography to help amplify other people’s stories.’

Bangishimo held rallies, workshops and conferences to create space for people, they said, and photography was another way to do this.

The artwork was vandalized and damaged while on the Waterloo Trail last year.

Some of the photos were bent and scuffed – the photo of Smoke and her daughter received the most negative attention, Bangishimo said.

“These images have been vandalized multiple times, three times in fact,” Bangishimo said.

“I’ve found them many times thrown into ditches, but that doesn’t stop me. It hurts, but it doesn’t stop me. »

Bangishimo said they won’t replace damaged photos because they don’t want to empower vandals.

“Art evokes emotion and that’s what it’s doing right now,” Bangishimo said.

Cheyenne Bholla is a Waterloo Region reporter at The Record. Contact her by email: [email protected]

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