Sunday, May 28th, Harrow United Church and the Walking Together Youth Grant Team hosted the community in a celebration of a mural that was 2 years in the imagining and the making, and well worth the wait in learning, collaborating, dreaming and working together in a good way in the spirit of reconciliation to create such a beautiful gift to the community.
Friends and neighbours were welcomed into Harrow’s Healing Garden with an offering of bannock and jam made by members of Harrow United along with berries supplied by the grant team.
Kaylee Wood, a young adult representative of the grant team, emceed the mural unveiling ceremony, accompanied by Duku Abodigin who offered a tobacco tie to each person who was called forward.
Jeannie Whitebird, one of the artists, who comes from Rolling River First Nation, opened the ceremony with a drum song about the Turtle. The turtle represents truth in the seven sacred teachings, and is featured in the mural. Rey Anderson, the elder & knowledge keeper who accompanied the grant team right from the start offered a prayer followed by a teaching about the sacred fire. Jeannie then shared a teaching about tobacco, one of the sacred medicines. Ian McCorrister, both a member of the grant team and one of the 12 youth who had the privilege of working with the artists to project and then paint themselves into the mural, joined Kaylee in telling the journey of how this mural came about. Jeannie Whitebird and Charlie Johnston, the amazing artist duo who created this beautiful work, each shared a few thoughts about the mural.
Jeannie introduced Elder Wa Wa Tei Ikwe, Louise McKay, from St. Laurent. She is the only fully recognizable person in the mural, who is portrayed offering teachings to the youth who were self-rendered as silhouettes in the mural. The elder was asked to offer a teaching in real life to everyone gathered while focusing her attention on the group of youth surrounding her on the grass, many of whom were the youth in the painting. As part of her teaching, she took the opportunity to pass the microphone to the youth and asked each one to share their name, describe which silhouette was them in the mural, and say something about what this experience and this mural meant to them. It was a very special moment to hear from the young artists-in-training. They had clearly been guided by their artist mentors to think about what they were passionate about, or what made them special, and let those thoughts and feelings flow into their representation of themselves. They spoke with pride about their work. We were pleased to have representatives of the sponsoring organizations in attendance. Mercy Oluwafemi of Winnipeg Foundation Walking Together Grants and Tom Ethans of Take Pride Winnipeg. A third sponsor, Rolling River First Nation, was proudly represented by a young girl, Kayla, who spoke up saying, “I’m from Rolling River!” She was one of three young artists from Rolling River First Nation who participated.
We ended the event by offering our tobacco to the fire in gratitude to the ancestors who came before us to show us the way! We hope that this mural will inspire contemplation and continued conversations on our path to truth and reconciliation.