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Marianne Nicolson: The Way In Which It Was Given to Us

Learn about Indigenous lands in this created animation with sound for UrbanScreen.

Referencing the pictograph as a way of recording stories on the land, Marianne Nicolson’s animation for UrbanScreen speaks to the seizure of Indigenous lands.

Nicolson has explored the pictograph in previous works, including in her early large scale mural Cliff Painting (1998) and more recently in her banner project Inquiry to the Newcomers (2017). The originating images for the latter work are based on a real pictograph that exists at the mouth of the Kingcome River in coastal BC, home of the Dzawada̱'enux̱w People, and depicts original contact with trade ships in 1792. Other Nations local to Surrey share histories of contact, reserve commissions, and processes of dispossession. The artist’s UrbanScreen work is informed by this as well as research into Kwantlen and Semiahmoo pictographs. Nicolson’s work celebrates the re-emergence of Indigenous Peoples’ voices while articulating that there can be no true reconciliation between Indigenous and settler societies without an acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples’ displacement from their lands.

This exhibition was presented as part of New Forms Festival (Sep 28−30) put on by the nonprofit society and media arts organization New Forms Media Society.

Documentation of The Way In Which It Was Given to Us during installation tests at UrbanScreen. Sound added during post-production. Videography courtesy of Brian Giebelhaus, sound courtesy of Siku Allooloo. Artwork by Marianne Nicolson.


The Way In Which It Was Given to Us is accompanied by an essay by Siku Allooloo, as part of the Surrey Art Gallery Presents series. Allooloo is a writer who is Inuit/Taino from Denendeh (Northwest Territories). Her work incorporates inherited legacies of resistance, continuity, and creative expression to support the revitalization and empowerment of Indigenous communities.

About the Artist

Marianne Nicolson (‘Tayagila’ogwa) is an artist of Scottish and Dzawada̱’enux̱w First Nations descent. The Dzwada̱’enux̱w People are a member tribe of the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Her training encompasses both traditional Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw forms and culture and Western European-based art practice. She has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design (1996), a Masters in Fine Arts (1999), a Masters in Linguistics and Anthropology (2005), and a PhD in Linguistics and Anthropology (2013) at the University of Victoria. She has exhibited her artwork locally, nationally, and internationally as a painter, photographer, and installation artist; has written and published numerous essays and articles; and has participated in multiple speaking engagements. Her practice engages with issues of Aboriginal histories and politics arising from a passionate involvement in cultural revitalization and sustainability.

Past Events

Screening of Youth Digital Art Projects | September 22, 2017 | 8:30pm | UrbanScreen

Youth from Chuck Bailey’s skate park and gym programs, the City’s Community Art Program, and the Gallery’s Art Together participants premiered new videos works. After these screenings, visitors watched a preview of Marianne Nicolson's new artwork.

Artist Talk with Marianne Nicolson | October 26, 2017 | 7−8:30pm | Surrey Art Gallery

Marianne Nicolson spoke about her practice in relation to her new artwork developed for UrbanScreen. She was joined in conversation by writer Siku Allooloo and artist respondents Brandon Gabriel and Peter Morin. The event was opened with Semiahmoo welcoming remarks by artist Roxanne Charles and was moderated by the Gallery’s Curator of Education and Engagement Alison Rajah.

This event was held at Surrey Art Gallery, and those in attendance were invited to view the installed artwork with Nicolson onsite at UrbanScreen.


Marianne Nicolson discusses her work in the exhibition To refuse/To wait/To sleep at the Walter C. Koerner Library and outside the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

Image credit: Experiencing Marianne Nicolson'sThe Way In Which It Was Given to Us (2017), an animation with sound, at UrbanScreen. Photographed by Brian Giebelhaus.