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Pikangikum First Nation

A journey between Pikangikum First Nation and

The Esplanade neighbourhood, since 2028.

Residency in Pikangikum:
Creation of a video series of local artists
April 2023

From April 5th to 12th, Isorine and Gillian Mapp returned to Pikangikum.

 

Building on this story and Darwin’s portrait created in the Fall of 2022, during this visit, Isorine Marc (Alchemist at Jamii) and artist Gillian Mapp worked on a creating a series of 6 videos. Our intent was to shine a spotlight on the talented artists of the community in Pikangikum.

 

We are incredibly grateful for the support of art teacher Vanessa Hazel at Eenchokay Birchstick School, who was instrumental in supporting us through this project. With her precious help, Isorine and Gillian are (re)connecting with the community members of Pikangikum.

Morningstar Quill: Filmed in both September 2022 and April 2023. In this portrait, Morningstar speaks about how photography helps her mental health as she has been dealing with grief, and how she hopes to inspire the next generation of artists, including her son. She talks about the many talents in Indigenous communities and how she is there to answer any questions people may have.

Lindsay King: Lindsay, who is a staff at Eenchokay Birchstick School, has written a children book, “Storyteller Skye”. In the interview, she recounts the journey to bring this book to life, its meanings, and how important representation matters. Lindsay is also sharing how her (re)learning of medecine is inspiring her next book which is about a young girl learning about plants as medecine.

Amberlee Quill: Amberlee shares how grief influence her work and how painting is a way to express her dreams she has visions of. She also talks about housing issues in the community and ways she thinks it could be addressed.

Maddy King: Maddy discusses how photography has given her ideas of opening her new business and inspiring other youths to find their own passion. She talks about grief and how some photos she takes represent people she has lost. She mentions alcoholism problems she sees in the community and her hope for change.

Travis G Peters: Travis recounts how he picked up his first guitar and how music guided him through his life. He mentioned problems with youths and gas sniffing and how he would love to share his passion of music with them in the hope they would find a direction in their life. 

The Jamii Team was also honored to meet with and create a portrait of Chief Shirley Keeper. 

Chief Shirley Keeper, in her video portrait, shares how she accepted the invitation to become Chief and how she consulted her people to make this step. She shares why it is so important to take on this role, and what some of her responsibilities are. She explains how much she cares about the young generation, especially young parents, hoping to help them through the path and parenthood and breaking cycles of grief.

When we traveled to Pikangikum in Fall 2022, we were honored to be allowed to video record two stories shared by Elder Matthew Strang. He told the stories in his mother tongue, Ojibwe. Community members of Pikangikum had shared with us that stories of Elders had been captured years ago but it was lost in a fire.  It was expressed that supporting capturing these stories for the community is something that would be precious to locals.  During our 2022 visit, we filmed Elder Matthew Strang, who recounted a childhood memory of when there were only seven families in Pikangikum. When people heard the sound of bells coming through the forests, they hid all their precious belongings. The bells meant white men on dog sleds were coming to rob them of their rabbit fur, plant-based medicine for colds and coughs, and tools they had made. 

When we visited Pikangikum April 2023, we were able to sit with Dannye Peters to work on the translation of these stories to English. With this project, the intent is to preserve these stories, as told by the Elder, and to share with the community at large, and especially with the youth. We are grateful for Dannye's time and care in doing such important work, and while Isorine and Dannye found laughter together, it was tedious work to honor Matthew's words. 

 

To animate the stories and trigger our imagination, we invited Jenna Quill to create illustrations to accompany these stories. Jenna is a young women from the community who attends Eenchokay Birchstick School. Within minutes of listening to the stories, she started drawing landscapes and women on an Ipad - and we were stunned by her natural talent. The illustrations will be integrated wihtin the video of Matthew Strang. 

 

Local musician Trav G Peters created music to go with the story, and in all that, we aim at doing our best to honor the words and the talent at play.

The intent is that this is a story that can be shared with the Eenchhokay Birchstick School students as well as in our community for all to continue learning.

Videos created will be shared on Jamii’s website and social media, as well as with the Eeenchokay Birchstick School and the community’s facebook page.

Photos by Isorine Marc

Artist Spotlight & Toronto Visit
Darwin Peters
Fall 2022

In September 2022, we welcomed artist Darwin Peters in our community (The Esplanade, downtown Toronto) for one week. During that time, not only we exposed Darwin's work to our community and supported the sale of his paintings, but we also showed him parts of Toronto and especially realized a dream of his, which was to see a Morrisseau painting live (we visited both the AGO and to the City Hall).

When we later traveled to Pikangikum, we were privileged to film artist Darwin Peters in his painting studio and we were honoured that Darwin shared his story with us - which is first a sign of mutual trust and respect. He was grateful for the opportunity to share with the world his love for painting and how it saved his life. 

This project is a part of Ontario Culture Days, supported by Ontario Arts Council and RBC.

Filmed and Edited by Isorine Marc - Additional Editing by Iris Unlu

In Darwin’s words (video transcript):

I've been into art for 16 years already and I just want to keep going with it because I love painting on canvas. Artists can make their dreams become a reality. Just telling them to keep following their dreams. Never give up.

Whenever I go like this with my brush, like creating an X after I paint the background and I stare at the canvas and just sit there for a couple of minutes staring at it and I capture that image and I quickly draw it in there whenever I look at one color and then I bring that color onto the canvas. My favorite part is outlining. Sometimes, when I look at a painting with just colors on them, I say to myself that painting is garbage now. Then after the outlining, it turns out beautifully.

I started painting in 2006 when I lost my closest cousin. That's when I started to draw and paint. And then when I didn't have anything to do, I wanted to take my own life because it wasn't the same without him. And then, when I was in school, going back, dropping out a couple of times, Principal told me to keep painting because I will need it in the future.  I barely got any supplies because I didn't have anything. Then I just kept on drawing on blank papers or anything that's blank. And then on 2011, July 14, I lost my sister due to a truck accident. Stopped painting for a year. Then in 2013 my wife told me to go back painting and she encouraged me to keep painting   because it helps me focus on, focus on living and why I'm still here. 

Many times I was told to be a hockey player. But that wasn't my dream. My dream was to become a painter. Like Norval Morrisseau.  I wanted to be like him, to share my art for people. My name is Darwin Peters And I'm from Pikangikum First Nation, Ontario.

Photos by Isorine Marc

Drum, Photography, and
Rhythmic Gymnastics Workshops
in Pikangikum 
2022
As part of
ON-Culture-Days-No-Background

In 2022, from September 28th to October 9th, Isorine, along with artists Gillian Mapp and Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone traveled to Pikangikum once again and led a series of artistic workshops for the local youth - with a focus on young women. As part of these workshops, we collaborated with local artist Morningstar Quill, whose work was exhibited at our local Toronto public Library - St Lawrence branch. 

The photography workshops engaged 7 youth in daily two-hour workshops (for a total of 8 workshops). During these workshops, photographer Gillian Mapp and local artist Morningstar Quill had the opportunity to teach the basics on how to operate a camera and do practice sessions outside, working on both landscapes and portraits. Artists engaged the youth in exploring a theme for an exhibition, and what kind of photos they would like to explore. They chose “Nature” as a theme and the group had different outings to capture the nature surrounding Pikangikum, with a focus on both immensity and details offered all around us. The group had photographic sessions in the forest, by the water, in the quarry. Once a collection of photos the youth were proud of was produced, the group started a curation process for each youth to include three of their photos in the exhibit. As a group, they had a chance to look at the entire selection, make adjustments and decide how they would be presented to the public. Each youth contributed to the exhibition artistic statement:

 

This exhibit is important to us as we dive into the theme of Nature and take the time to admire its beauty, its many surprises, its colors, and how alive it becomes when we take the time to listen to it. These photos were taken in and around our community and that’s important to us as it is our home. In this exhibit, we showcase powerful animals like the bear, our culture like the photo with the children’s hands painted in orange, and the way we come in and out of our community with the images of planes flying above our heads. Nature is poetry and takes us on a beautiful journey - especially at the change of seasons; within a few days, the leaves went from bright yellow to brown, and we got to capture the transformation. Nature shows us the opposite sides of beauty and the wide range of colors within it.

Details like the photo with the feathers represents our culture, the beauty of our land, the wild animals and the colored leaves. Every details are here and it touches us softly, with care and with love. The wonderment of nature left us speechless but offered infinite beauty to capture with our cameras. We are proud to share this exhibit with you.

The rhythmic gymnastics workshops, led by Isorine Marc, were a movement-based exploration getting comfortable with our bodies, learning how to stretch and strengthened our core, explore coordination, choreography, musicality, hoops artistic decoration and collective performance. 15 girls (10-yrs old) were committed to daily 2-hr workshops (for a total of 8 workshops) that culminated in creating a 3-min choreography that was presented to the community on October 8th alongside the photographic exhibition.

We visited Pikangikum during Cultural Break, which is a time of the year when the school is closed and locals go to their cabins to hunt before the Winter. During Culture Break, some community members are left behind with nothing to do (especially that there is no school during that time). Fortunately, the school opened its doors to us so that we could run workshops. The 15 young ones who were involved in Rhythmic Gymnastics were grateful for the opportunity as they had nothing else to do during that time. They were very proud to showcase their performances to their parents on the last day.

Artist Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone offered a variety of workshops to adults and youths including drumming circle, hand drum making workshops and birthing ceremony, visual arts and craft. 5 youths and 5 adults participated in these workshops which created a safe space “to be”.

In total, we offered 23 2-hrs workshops during out visit.

CULMINATION:

The workshop series culminated in a presentation to the community On October 7th, which was attended by Chief Shirley Keeper and the vice-principal of our partnering school Eenchockay Public School, along with 30 community members. During the presentation, our young participants had the opportunity to share their movement-based routine (rhythmic gymnastics), and our youth presented their photo exhibition to the community. The project was very well received and open doors for continued collaborations.

This project is a part of Ontario Culture Days, supported by Ontario Arts Council and RBC.