Alex Antle: Njiknam (My Younger Brother)
Originally practicing in beadwork, Antle began working with photography in the past few years. Her remarkable series Njiknam (My Younger Brother) marks this transition, while focusing on her relationship with her brother, Matthew. The artist shares the time spent with her brother through her original photos, screen-printed photos embellished with beadwork and caribou tufting and newly-created embroidered works. Drawing upon the threads of kinship and care that have long been fundamental to Indigenous knowledge, Antle highlights her brother’s connection to Mi’kmaq culture through the land. She invites us to view an experience of Mi’kmaq culture in Newfoundland, as the works follow her brother’s land-based experiences in all seasons. The result is a record of relationship, thoughtfully describing how common Newfoundland activities and Mi’kmaq culture blend while challenging biases of what cultural practice looks like.
“This project is inspired by my younger brother, Matthew. He spends every minute of his free time outdoors in the woods practicing a traditional lifestyle. However, he does not view himself as strongly connected to Mi'kmaq culture. My brother holds traditional beliefs such as taking only what you need and respecting wildlife. He frequently participates in traditional harvesting, including hunting, trapping, fishing and foraging. These are all Mi'kmaq traditions. However, his lack of participation in the ceremonial side of culture deters him from viewing his lifestyle as cultural.
L'nu can feel disconnected from Mi'kmaq identity if they do not participate in ceremonial practices, but culture is so much more than ceremony. Mi'kmaq culture in Newfoundland is heavily land-based. Hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, canoeing and berry picking are all Mi'kmaq traditions. Traditional Newfoundland culture and Mi'kmaq culture are so similar in Newfoundland that many people don't realize that they are living a traditional Mi'kmaq lifestyle. This series communicates that Mi'kmaq culture does not solely revolve around ceremonial acts. Every person practices their culture differently, and they are all equally valid. This series aims to combat stereotypes of what an Indigenous person looks like and how we practice culture.”
- Alex Antle, (2022)
About the Artist
Alex Antle (she/her) is a L’nu artist located in Elmastukwek, Ktaqmkuk (Bay of Islands, Newfoundland). She has been learning and practicing beadwork since 2017, guided by a community of Mi’kmaq beaders. Antle has recently started learning and incorporating other traditional practices into her work including caribou tufting and quillwork.
Antle’s work explores the relationship between tradition and modern Mi’kmaq people. She is interested in living culture, the evolution of Mi’kmaq culture and the importance of land and water.
Antle has exhibited her work in galleries across Atlantic Canada, participated in art festivals, and frequently shares her skill through beading workshops. In 2021, Antle received the emerging award from VANL-CARFAC as well as a professional project grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. In July of 2022, she journeyed to the Titanic site as an artist-in-residence with Miawpukek Horizon Services and Ocean Gate Expeditions. She also creates wearable art and runs a small arts-based business, Bunchberry Beadwork.
Image credit: Toqa’q 2 (2022). Print on cotton, applique beadwork. 45.8 x 68.6 cm. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy of the artist. (Detail).