‘More than just art’: legislature mural reveals emotional layers to Indigenous experience

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A new mural created by Indigenous youth and elders from the Clan Mothers Healing Village was unveiled Monday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

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A new mural created by Indigenous youth and elders from the Clan Mothers Healing Village was unveiled Monday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Layers is a multi-media artwork created by Indigenous artist Jackie Traverse, Clan Mothers elders Mae Louise Campbell, Belinda Vandenbroeck, Billie Schibler and Mary Bryan, and a group of Indigenous youth.

The mural — which will be on display at the base of the grand staircase within the legislative building until the fall — was the final product of a project by the Clan Mothers designed to connect Indigenous youth with elders and mentors, and to encourage a sense of community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The art work titled, Layers, will be on display at the base of the grand staircase for the next several months.

“This art, the creation of this art, is more than just art,” Schibler told a crowd gathered to view the mural for the first time. “It’s an emotional and spiritual journey for many who have worked on it and it is something that they have put their own spirit into as this creation has occurred.”

The standalone mural is set against a black backdrop and includes three layers.

The first layer, a a green turtle marked with red and orange hand prints, draws attention to the ongoing disappearance and murder of Indigenous women, girls and LGBTTQ+ people; the identification of potential gravesites at former residential schools; and the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child-welfare system.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Renowned local Indigenous artist Jackie Traverse holds Sophia Edwards, 5, in front of the work of art she produced with Indigenous youth and the Clan Mothers elders.

The second layer of metallic orbs represents the teachings of the 13 moons. And the final layer, a Métis sash with the two-spirit flag and Ojibwa florals, honours all nations and two-spirit people. The mural is also accompanied by a short film titled Piyesis: the Journey of Bird.

Keeyra Quill-Cook, a young artist who contributed to the mural, held back tears while sharing her experience with the Clan Mothers. She said it helped her become more open to those around her and improved her outlook on life and her community.

Quill-Cook said the teachings she learned from the elders she will one day pass on to her children and grandchildren.

“Our hearts are with our youth and the tragic struggles they have endured and continue to go through as a result of the ongoing systemic effects of colonization and residential schools,” said Jamie Goulet of the Clan Mothers Healing Village.

Layers brings the compassion and love from elders together with the sorrow of intergenerational trauma that our youth carry.”

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the unveiling of the mural and its place of prominence in the legislative building is an example of “true reconciliation… This is the least we can do on our path to reconciliation together.”

Clan Mothers is a grassroots, Indigenous-led organization providing support for women who have experienced multi-generational trauma, sexual violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

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