Keynote - Sonny Assu: Dance As Though The Ancestors Are Watching


  • Sonny Assu

    Sonny Assu (LigwiÅ‚da'xw of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nations) was raised in North Delta, BC, over 250 km away from his home ancestral home on Vancouver Island. Having been raised as your everyday average suburbanite, it wasn't until he was eight years old that he discovered his Kwakwaka'wakw heritage. Later in life, this discovery would be the conceptual focal point that helped launch his unique art practice. 

    Assu explores multiple mediums and materials to negotiate western and Kwakwaka'wakw principles of art-making. Often autobiographical, humorous, solemn and/or political, his diverse practice deals with the realities of being Indigenous in the colonial state of Canada.

    Sonny received his BFA from the Emily Carr University in 2002 and was honoured with the University's distinguished alumni award, the Emily Award, in 2006. In 2017 he successfully defended his MFA thesis exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery (We Come to Witness) for Concordia University.

    Assu received a BC Creative Achievement Award in First Nations Art in 2011, has been named a Laureate for the Hnatyshyn Foundation's REVEAL - Indigenous Art Awards in 2017, and is an Eiteljorg Contemporary Arts Fellowship recipient for 2021.

    Sonny's work has been accepted into The National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Eiteljorg Museum, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Guelph, The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Museum of Anthropology at UBC, The Seattle Art Museum, The Burke Museum, Audain Art Museum and in various other public and private collections across Canada, the United States and the UK.

    After living and working in Vancouver and Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal), he has settled with his family in Æ›amÌ“atax̌ʷ (Campbell River, BC).


Interdisciplinary artist Sonny Assu will share his work and practice from the last 20 years, focusing on recent projects. 

Sonny often infuses his work with wry humour and political statements to foster dialogue, speaking to the realities of being an Indigenous person in the colonial state of Canada. 

His work deals with the loss of language, loss of cultural resources and the effects of colonization upon the Indigenous people of North America.


9:45 AM - 10:45 AM

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