Spotlight on Research: Cheryl L’Hirondelle
Posted: 29 March, 2021
The prestigious Canadian Governor General’s Award for Artistic Achievement in Media and Visual Arts, was this year granted to IRC Enterprise Partnership Scheme Postgraduate, Cheryl L’Hirondelle. Honoured in recognition of her exceptional career both as a singer/songwriter, community-engaged artist and arts activist and her remarkable contribution as an Indigenous interdisciplinary artist, L’Hirondelle is a self-described ‘swift-flying songbird, interdisciplinary artist, PhD candidate and so much more, originally from the land now known as Canada. She holds an IRC EPS award for her PhD research, with Kíla, the Irish world music-group and record label as her enterprise partner and SMARTlab, Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland at UCD as her research base.
In her own words, Cheryl L’Hirondelle is an award-winning and community-engaged Indigenous (Cree/Halfbreed; German/Polish) multi- and interdisciplinary artist, singer/songwriter, curator and critical writer whose creative practice investigates the dynamism of nêhiyawak cosmology in a contemporary time-place continuum. Her Masters of Inclusive Design (IDRC/OCAD University, Toronto) introduced and expounded on Indigenous concepts of radical inclusivity and sonic survivance and is further expanding these theories in inclusive practice at SMARTlab as part of her PhD, which is in its final year.
L’Hirondelle’s PhD focuses on the relationship between nêhiyawêwin (Cree language), Gaeilge and the relationship they have to the landscapes and land formations they engage with through song creation as methods for language learning and custodial land engagement.
Since the early 1980s, L’Hirondelle has created, performed and presented work in a variety of artistic disciplines, including music, performance/live art, theatre, spoken word, storytelling, and redundant technologies & new media. In the early ’90s, she began a parallel career as an arts consultant/advisor and programmer, cultural strategist/activist, and director/producer. Cheryl’s various activities have also found her working in the Canadian independent music industry, national artist-run centres, educational institutions, the Canadian prison system, First Nations bands, tribal councils and governmental funding agencies, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. She is also CEO of Miyoh Music Inc., an Indigenous niche music publisher and record label. She is also a member of OCAD University’s Indigenous Council (Toronto) and is one-third of the Indigenous kiy collective.
Speaking of the lifelong achievements and impact of this remarkable action researcher/media artist, her PhD supervisor Professor Lizbeth Goodman of UCD stated: “It has been my great honour over the years to know and advise, and in turn be informed and inspired by, the remarkable Cheryl L’Hirondelle. Her wisdom surpasses the kinds of ‘knowledge’ which can be ‘taught’ in any formal institutional setting; in nature, she sings out to the furthest mountain and shows how our relationships to land and to one another require a delicate balance of strength with integrity, connectedness and ethical engagement, all combining to inspire and enlighten us all, in honour of our ancestors and for the sake of this generation and generations still to come.”
Colm Ó Snodaigh of Kila, gives this Irish shout-out: “Maith thú Cheryl! Maith thú!”
L’Hirondelle’s art and musical practice is regularly discussed in a variety of exhibition publications, periodicals, peer-reviewed journals and doctoral theses. In 2004, she was the first Indigenous artist invited to present work at DAK’ART Lab, at the 6th Edition of the Dakar Biennale for Contemporary African Art, Senegal. In both 2005 and 2006, Cheryl was the recipient of the imagineNATIVE New Media Award for her online net.art projects: treatycard.ca, 17:TELL and wêpinâsowina.net. Her 2008/9 Songlines project nikamon ohci askiy (songs because of the land) was recognised as an Official Honouree of the 13th Annual Webby Awards in the Net Art category. She has been awarded several music related honours: Prairie Music Award (nomination for producing Nikamok, 2001), Canadian Aboriginal Music Award (for M’Girl, 2006 & 2007), and a Canadian Juno Award (as part of Buffy Sainte Marie’s Power in the Blood, 2015). In January 2020 she brought her inspirational Light Tipi participatory action installation to Davos during the WEF.