An “inveterate rascal,” Azban is a laughing spirit who lives in a world of unbridled growth and irrepressible abundance. Abernaki-Wendat artist Christine Sioui-Wawanoloath draws her inspiration from the lively spirit world of Azban. And that’s why the 22nd edition of the Montreal First Peoples’ Festival titled her exhibition “Masks, Drawings, and Other Laughing Spirits.”

The exhibition, which debuted July 18, will be around until August 11 at the Canadian Guilds of Crafts in the artists’ district in downtown Montreal. The pieces on display range from masks Sioui-Wawanoloath made specifically for events to beautifully crafted hand-painted bowls as well as intricate yet stylistically simple drawings with a traditional theme.

The annual Montreal First Peoples’ Festival, organized by Land Insights, is a varied showcase of all that First Peoples’ culture has to offer, from music and films offered at venues around Montreal and Kahnawake, to delicious traditional foods as well as artwork and poetry presentations.


This will be the third year that the Montreal First Peoples’ Festival is holding events at the Place des Festivals, providing it with the same exposure as the other great Montreal festivals.

“We’re far from having the same budget as the other festivals that precede us, so it is a big challenge to stand [at the same] level that the public expects,” said the president of Land InSights, Andre Dudemaine. “Happily enough we have a genius, Michele Marcelin, a set designer for films and we have the best installations along with the Aboriginal artists who bring their soul there so we are the best of the best.”

The exhibition is one of five art exhibitions being offered by Land InSights that are available for viewing during the festival. The exhibition entitled “Offerings” by France Trépanier will be on display at the Place des Festivals August 2-5.

During the opening July 18, Sioui-Wawanoloath spoke of what each of the pieces represented and from where she drew her inspiration. For Azban, he was portrayed as a blue-winged spirit with swirls on his body reflecting the chaos that surrounds him. Her favourite piece was inspired by a wedding ceremony she witnessed a long time ago: “The groom circled the bride with long rope until they were bound together in a loving embrace.”

Another piece features a single figure holding a bird in his hands with a strand of beads and a skyward gaze. She drew her inspiration from her peoples’ traditional belief that birds carry their prayers. The significance of the beads is that the word itself is derived from the old English word “bede,” which means to pray as well as referencing the prayer beads found in various religions.

The importance of the artist in the preservation of cultures is apparent after spending the afternoon at the Canadian Guild of Crafts. The gallery showcases the works by First Nations and Inuit artists from around the Quebec region. The displays are filled with gorgeous pieces that tell the story of a culture that has so much to offer.

Included in the works on display are those of Peter Pelchat, a Cree artist who has collaborated in the past with Beesum Communications to illustrate the “Adventures of Chikabash.” His pieces contrast the traditional world with elements from modern life, such as a game controller. In another piece he showcases the beauty of a community coming together to build a tepee with the wonderful blue contrast of the sky.

The Montreal First peoples’ Festival runs July 31 to August 9. Their webpage is at The exhibition will be on display at The Canadian Guild of Craft on 1460 Sherbrooke Street West until August 11. If you would like to check out the works and hear from the artist, watch the video on our website