Anishnaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag (Native Kids Ride Bikes), is an ongoing collaboration of Dylan Miner with native youth, that uses bicycles, especially so called low-rider bikes, as a way to speak about migration stories, traditional and new modes of transport and the transmission of knowledge. Bikes are objects of general interest to youths of any origin around the world, serving thus as something to gather around and talk about various topics. Initially researching various means of transportation – such as canoes, dog sledges, foot wear, red river carts, snow shoes – as used by the Métis, Anishinaabeg and Nehiyawewin communities, the complex interrelationship among them, as community members and families were constantly migrating across the continent, became clear to the artist.
In constructing the bikes, Miner collaborated with the urban native community of Lansing, inviting elders, young native professionals, university students, and other artists to workshops and discussions. The creation and design of each bike were then conceived under the seven grandfather teachings of the Anishinaabeg people: nbwaakaawin (wisdom), zaagi’idiwin (love), minaadendamowin (respect), aakwa’ode’ewin (bravery), debwewin (truth), dibaadendiziwin (humility), and gwekwaadiziwin (honesty). The collaborators, which included elementary and high school students as well, chose which teaching their bike would represent, thus integrating community knowledge, language, and visual aesthetics.
In the installation form, the bikes are often accompanied by pennants. The series included here were made with indigenous youth from Windsor, Canada and Detroit, USA, cities across the river from each other. The colours of the pennants and the bikes – red, yellow, white, and black – are the colours for north, south, east, and west directions in Mayan cosmogonies, and the words are in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language of this territory) and Nahuatl, an indigenous language of central Mexico, since a few of the youth were of indigenous Mexican descent. The pennants also include drawings made by the youth, printed by themselves.
About the artist
Dylan Miner is a Wiisaakodewinini (Métis) artist, activist, and scholar. He is Director of the American Indian Studies Program and Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Miner is also adjunct curator of Indigenous art at the MSU Museum and a founding member of the Justseeds artists collective. He holds a PhD from The University of New Mexico and has published approximately sixty journal articles, book chapters, critical essays, and encyclopedia entries. In 2010, he was granted an Artist Leadership Fellowship from the National Museum of the American Indian.
Miner has been featured in more than twenty solo exhibitions. His book Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island was published in 2014 by the University of Arizona Press. His solo exhibition Silence of Sovereignty opened last year, 2015, in Montréal. Miner is currently completing two book projects: one on Indigenous aesthetics and a collection of poems, Ikidowinan Ninandagikendaanan (words I seek to learn).