Calico & Camouflage



Volume 6, Issue 12
April 28, 2021

Skawennati makes art that addresses history, the future, and change from her perspective as an urban Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman and as a cyberpunk avatar. Her early adoption of cyberspace as both a location and a medium for her practice has produced groundbreaking projects such as CyberPowWow and TimeTraveller™. She is best known for her machinimas—movies made in virtual environments—but also produces still images, textiles and sculpture. Born in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, Skawennati belongs to the Turtle clan. She holds a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, where she resides.

Calico & Camouflage is a fashion collection of ResistanceWear defined by traditionally-inspired ribbon shirts and military-style cargo pants—two articles of clothing that are intertwined with the history of colonization on Turtle Island.

Colourful silk ribbons and floral calico fabric were first introduced to our communities in the 1600s through trade with European settlers and were adopted and adapted by our innovative ancestors. Ribbon shirts and dresses have since become widely-recognized signifiers of traditional Haudenosaunee regalia. In contrast, military garb has been adopted in defiance of the repeated attempts by colonial forces to eliminate us. From Wounded Knee to the Oka Crisis to Standing Rock to Mauna Kea, our land- and life-defenders have claimed camouflage clothing for their own to show that we are not afraid to fight. Indigenous artists and designers such as Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel and Tammy Beauvais have connected camouflage, activism and the Indigenous body to make fashion statements.

Calico & Camouflage exists in both the digital and the physical world. Powerful pink, cool blue, olive green, and gun-metal grey are the dominant colours, reflecting contemporary landscapes of activism, including demonstrations in city streets, rural roads, cyberspace and courtrooms.

The basic elements of the collection were designed using 3D modelling software and are worn by beloved avatars customized by the team at Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC). The collection was brought into the physical world to be worn by Real Human Beings who wish to simultaneously proclaim their Indigeneity and their readiness to resist ongoing assimilation.

In this collection, updated and abstracted original calico and camouflage patterns are mixed and matched: a camouflage ribbon shirt is paired with calico cargo pants. In the real-world version, the ribbons are joyously multiplying, lengthening and finding their way to new configurations on the clothes. More than just decoration, they represent our inextinguishable spirit.

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Volume 6, Issue 12
April 28, 2021