She:kon1/Hello, my name is Sebastian De Line. My father was Terry Deline who grew up in Kahnewake,2 and my mother is Lynne Choo from Canton.3 So welcome and thank you very much for having me.
When I visited the museum, one of the first things I felt was that I wished to respond and draw images of objects solely from my own culture. So I chose two objects that are Haudenosaunee:4 this baby board and this spoon. The conversation I wanted to have relates to earlier conversations with Candice Hopkins about the word “object,” and how this word offers quite a challenge when thinking about how we relate to our belongings.
When I saw this spoon, I began thinking about the wampum, and what we call “one dish one spoon” wampum. What struck me was how this particular spoon was not with the bowl, you know? Coming into the space of the museum, I began thinking through what I had been taught by my family and what I’ve been taught in art, and how these are different; how we encounter art and how we are informed by what we see and what we understand.
The thing that was missing for me was the conversation, then, about the teaching around “one dish one spoon,” which is a wampum about the relationship between Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe and our territories—how we share a stewardship, keeping a balance and responsibility to our animal kinships, etc.
For me, it was as if there was a kind of fictitious play, writing a letter—or really it’s smaller, maybe it’s not really a letter but more like a telegraph—of what that conversation might be like.
It goes: “she: kon one bowl, how can we feed our people without you? I will ask my cousin to send a runner. nia:wen koa5, one spoon.”
Meanwhile, the conversation I was thinking about was more the whole conversation between “one dish one spoon.” We’re missing each other, and we can’t be performing as a collective without each other. We also can’t, as human beings, perform the reciprocity that we’re taught in the absence of the whole teaching.
I was thinking about that curatorially, too. That aspect is very important. Sometimes the information one encounters in exhibition spaces is crucial to the viewing experience. Perhaps in the future it would be helpful for curators to work in partnership with language revitalization programs. Why is everything always in English all the time? Why is it called “ladle,” or whatever, you know? Exhibitions on Indigenous art present an opportunity where we could all be learning. I would like to learn my words. That kind of linguistic contextualization6 produces a really different situation. Then, when I come into a museum or my family comes into a museum, our needs are also being met. That’s just one tiny impression of this much larger discussion of reciprocity, where we’re “learning from” but also giving back, because that is the teaching.