Nadya Kwandibens: Touring Canada To Shatter Stereotypes Through Photography

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The negative portrayal of Aboriginals by the Canadian media and sometimes, by members of the Canadian public is something that has been of great concern to me. So also have been other forms of mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Yesterday, I had a Skype interview with popular Aboriginal-Canadian photographer, Nadya Kwandibens.

What got me interested in interviewing her was the nature of her job – Nadya tours Canada capturing happy, beautiful and very impressive images of Indigenous communities.

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens/RedWorks

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens/RedWorks

Ms. Kwandibens’s images are in great contrast from the sad representations of Aboriginals that are promoted by the Canadian public. Aboriginals are usually portrayed as people who are not peace-seeking, constant irrational complainers, and as people who possess a culture that hinders them from progressing. I am so glad that I got to interview Nadya. I love that she has moved out of her comfort zone to deconstruct very harmful stereotypes.

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens/RedWorks

Here are the excerpts of my interview with Nadya:

Nadya Kwandibens- (Photo /RedWorks)

Tell us a little about yourself

I am 35 years old. I am Ojibwa. Originally from Northwestern Ontario – a small reserve called Northwest Angle thirty-seven. About an hour South of Kenora. However, I moved to British Columbia(BC). Right now, I am on tours. I will be on the road for a month and a half or so, not as long as the tours that I have done in the past. I run a photography company called Redworks Photography. It is a dynamic touring photography company. I am on the road for pretty much most of the year.

When did you establish Redworks Photography?

I founded it in 2008.

Before then, did you use to tour or it was after you started the company that you began to tour?

Really, how it all began was I started doing portrait photography. Up until then, it had only been a hobby. It was about a year or so after I started doing portraits that I began professionally shooting in 2006. So after about a year and a half or so, that’s when I started touring. I thought, you know, the only way to get more exposure and get my work out there is to travel. So I have been pretty much travelling ever since.

I have seen your website. You take a lot of positive images of First Nations communities in Canada. You capture a lot of happy moments and really lovely images that will just give one positive energy by mere looking at them. You capture the kinds of moments that the media fails to show the public. You tour around Canada too. I want to know what inspired you to take on this kind of job?

All the imagery that we were subject to while we were growing up, the native history – and that is not very positive and in the news and all that, seeing our stories and they are not portrayed in a positive light. It’ s all very negative – focusing on protesting and all that sort of trials and tribulations coverage that our people are always getting. Just looking at that overall and then thinking to myself, there is something that my art can do to help shed a more positive light on who we are as so many diverse Nations across Canada and even in the States too. I always come back to my artist statement. It’s on my website.

Have you experienced any challenges with your job?

Yeah. Pretty much wherever I shoot. I don’t shoot in studio. One of the reasons Redworks was called Redworks studio at a time was because the intention I had was to actually open a studio in Toronto. I just travel so much and I love travelling and pretty much all of my shoots that I do are improvised, so there is the challenge in that and I really love shooting with natural available light. I don’t travel with big lighting kits. It’s just me and my camera. Another challenge I guess with being on the road is just, I guess, finding time for yourself. That would be the main challenge. Although, it’s become easier over the years. This is my seventh year of touring.

You are really experienced at travelling. From all your experiences, what are some exceptional things that you have noticed about Canada? Like, is there a particular city that has an awesome landscape or maybe there is the best city to get waffles?

Hmmm … Well, BC is beautiful. It would be one of the most beautiful provinces I have ever been to. As far as different must-dos or must-haves in each city, I am not sure.

I have your vision statement here and I am actually going to read the part of it that I really like (and I saw a part of it in your recent CBC interview). It’s: “If our history is a shadow, let this moment serve as light. We are musicians, lawyers, doctors, mothers and sons. We are activists, scholars, dreamers, fathers and daughters. Let us claim ourselves now and see that we are, and will always be great, thriving, balanced civilizations capable of carrying ourselves into that bright new day.”That’s just beautiful. How did you come up with that?

I am not sure where it came from. I was just really moved by how thriving and vibrant our Nations are and how much you don’t see that and for it to be partly poetic, I guess, is just how I write and how my personality or spirit expresses itself . A lot of people really connect with the statement.

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens/RedWorks

What encouragement can you give to fellow Aboriginal-Canadians who are also interested in correcting the stereotype?

I always say, “just go for it”. You have this life here, it’s important to go for it. Put away your fear. Once you think something and you put an idea out there, there is always people or situations that will come together to make it happen for you.

Connect with Nadya via her website or twitter

Love,

Chiamaka.

*This article was first published in BlurrredCreations by Chiamaka Mogo

Chiamaka is a Nigerian-born teenage entrepreneur and media consultant who is passionate about social justice and helping people achieve their true potential. She is also the author of Blurred Creations http://blurredcreations.wordpress.com

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