Tsēmā Igharas: Black Gold
Curated by Natasha Chaykowski
As more than 12,000 square kilometers of land—forests, grassy expanses, life—burned within the unceded territories now known as British Columbia, the east moving wind from the Pacific Ocean pushed the ensuing smoke across the Rockies, shrouding Alberta in darkness. As the smoke wafted eastward, millions of barrels of heavy crude were pumped westward: the movements of black gold.
Black Gold, a project by Tahltan artist Tsēmā Igharas, approaches mining practices and the indisputably thriving yet destructive extractive industries in the colonial states of British Columbia and Alberta, particularly within the context of Athabasca oil sands. This project takes for start the idea that mined substances are inherently connected to our bodies through a shared geological origin. The energy of a molecule is the energy of a person is the energy of a place is the energy of a moment.
In Summer 2018, Tsēmā investigated these tensions through site-specific research and a residency supported by Untitled Art Society, which allowed her to delve into how these issues are made manifest on Treaty 7 Territory and Treaty 8 Territory, in comparison to how mining industries exist culturally, historically, politically and economically in the unceded lands of the artist’s home territory, Tahltan First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.
Image: Tsēmā Igharas, Black Gold, Untitled Art Society, 2019. Image courtesy the artist and Untitled Art Society. Photo: Katy Whitt.