tecumseh arts festival at Fort York (off Fleet) until July 27. 416-392-6907. Rating: NNNN
make no mistake, the tecumseh Collective's agenda in creating site-specific works of art at historic Fort York is politically motivated. The eight First Nations artists exhibiting in the second annual Tecumseh Arts Festival pay homage to the great Shawnee leader and all the other native warriors who fought to defend Canada from U.S. invasion during the War of 1812.
The fact that none of the Indian soldiers ever actually inhabited the Fort, because they were garrisoned outside its walls, where they could be -- and were -- the first line of defence, simply adds to the poignancy of these quiet interventions.
Brigadier General Tecumseh died before he could get to York, but his descendent Philip Côt invokes his spirit with a chair draped in symbolic blankets, feathers and horse and otter tails, facing away from the table in the officers' mess hall. Carolyn Côt hangs a traditional star blanket in the infirmary, while Hannah Claus domesticates the blockade with a sheer curtain and paper moccasins that recall why people are willing to fight at all: to defend their homes.
Oscar Camilo De La Flores's astonishing large-scale drawing, buried deep in the magazine, depicts an indigenous man offering his own body as a sacrifice. No less moving are the works of Bonnie Devine, David Hannan, Richard William Hill and Raffael Iglesias.