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Connecting indigenous peoples across continents

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Winnipeg artist Wanda Luna beside Trauco, one of the pieces in her new exhibit Women of the Earth, on display at Neechi Commons until Nov. 30.

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Winnipeg artist Wanda Luna beside Trauco, one of the pieces in her new exhibit Women of the Earth, on display at Neechi Commons until Nov. 30. Photo Store

In her new exhibit, Chilean-born Winnipeg artist Wanda Luna explores the bond between Canadian Aboriginal culture and indigenous peoples in her native country.

Mujeres de la Tierra/Women of the Earth- Indigenous Women of the Americas runs at Neechi Commons until Nov. 30.   

"There seems to be this connection between indigenous people all over the world, this feeling that they all have, that they’re put on Earth to protect the environment," Luna said. "In Chile, the name of the group I’m from, Mapuche, it means ‘people of the earth.’ We believe we’re from the earth. We exist in the trees and grass. If you have a big industrial company invading Chile, to someone who’s indigenous, it’s like cutting them from their spirit. I found there’s a pretty similar feeling when I talk to my indigenous friends here."

Women of the Earth is mostly made up of ink work images of women, each surrounded by the shape of a cello. Luna said she’s obsessed with the shape of the bowed string instrument and she’s not exactly sure why. But with this exhibit, it makes sense.

"It’s (the cello) feminine. It’s got curves," Luna said. "Also, the colour itself, red, is an everything colour. It’s rage, passion, hatred."

Luna’s passion for art began in 2004 after she, well, lied her way into a project.

"I wanted to impress this boy so I told him I was an artist. He said ‘Well, I have a friend who’s setting up a bakery, I got you a gig. You can paint his mural.’ I had never touched a brush in my life," she said.

Luna eventually quit her job at Great-West Life to focus fully on art. She’s now an in-demand Winnipeg artist and is best known for The Dream Room Project, a bedroom painting endeavour she founded in 2009.  

"Have you heard of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? I do that for kids in Winnipeg," Luna said. "They’re kids who’ve gone through trauma, kids who have been recently diagnosed or are going through a rough patch in their life, like bullying.

"We’ve done 22 rooms. I’ll paint the kids whatever they want. If they want a galaxy, I’ll do it. I painted an aquarium for a kid with Asperger’s. He wanted to feel like he was in it."

As for Women of the Earth, Luna said she also wants to educate people about the anti-terrorism legislation in Chile that has been used against indigenous groups involved in land conflicts.

"I wanted to talk about the different groups in Chile that are disappearing and the languages that are disappearing.

"A lot of these villages (Chilean indigenous people) were pushed into, you can’t get in there. There are no roadways, it’s all mud. The people don’t get medical treatment, no dental, no electricity, nothing. It’s like they’re not there. I was tired of that and wanted to tell people it’s happening. I just don’t want us to be forgotten."

For more info on Luna, go to wandaluna.com

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