Shelley Niro, The Rebel, 1982 / reprinted 2022. Hand tinted gelatin silver print.

Shelley Niro, The Rebel (detail), 1982, reprinted 2022. Hand-tinted gelatin silver print, 20.3 × 25.4 cm. Collection of the artist. © Shelley Niro

Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch

Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch is the first retrospective exhibition of the multi-media work of Mohawk artist Shelley Niro, who is based in Brantford, ON.

Spanning four decades of photography, film, painting, installation, sculpture and mixed-media practice, this major exhibition highlights the themes Niro constantly returns to:  Past Is Present, Matriarchy, Actors, and Family Relations. 

Niro’s persistent vision is to represent Indigenous women and girls, advocating for self-representation and sovereignty. Her highly empathetic approach moves viewers to understand the issues at hand through her visually impactful and politically powerful manner. She uses parody, feminism, and spirituality to examine identity, and in turn, brings political power to the realm of the personal. 

The exhibition features more than 70 works, some in series (totalling 136 pieces) coming from public and private collections across Canada and the US. It also includes close to 20 artworks from the National Gallery of Canada’s collection. 

Organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Hamilton with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and with curatorial support from the National Gallery of Canada. Major support for this project is provided by the Canada Council for the Arts and Terra Foundation for American Art.


Until August 25th, 2024


National Gallery of Canada Special Exhibitions Galleries
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4
Shelley Niro, Abnormally Aboriginal (detail), 2014, reprinted 2022. Inkjet prints, triptych.

Shelley Niro, Abnormally Aboriginal (detail), 2014, reprinted 2022. Inkjet prints, triptych, 137.2 × 86.4 cm each. Collection of the artist. © Shelley Niro

the Artist


Born in Niagara Falls, New York, in 1954, Shelley Niro is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) Nation, from the Six Nations of the Grand River territory. Her artworks have been featured across Canada and internationally. In 2009, her first feature film, Kissed by Lightning, premiered at Toronto’s imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and won the Santa Fe Film Festival’s 2009 Milagro Award for Best Indigenous Film. Her short film The Shirt was presented at the 2003 Venice Biennale and the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Films include: Honey Moccasin, It Starts with a Whisper, The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw and a feature film released in 2023, Café Daughter.

In 2019, Niro received an honorary doctorate from the Ontario College of Art and Design, where she completed her undergraduate studies; she was also the 2019 Laureate of the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award for Photography. In 2017, Niro received both the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and the Scotiabank Photography Award, two preeminent contemporary art awards in Canada. In 2017, Niro also received the Hnatyshyn Foundation REVEAL Indigenous Artist Award, and the Arts and Culture Award from the Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation. She was the inaugural recipient of the Aboriginal Arts Award presented through the Ontario Arts Council in 2012. She completed her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Western Ontario.




Listen to artist Shelley Niro speak about her work throughout the exhibition in this 14-stop audio tour.

Start the tour



The exhibition is accompanied by a richly-illustrated publication, available in English and French in the Gallery Boutique and online.

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Organized and circulated by


Major support for this project is provided by

Canada Council for the ArtsTerra Foundation for American Art

Additional support by

Ontario Art Council / Ontario

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