When 2012 first started, I wondered what the year would bring. And now that the first quarter is almost complete, a theme seems to have emerged: education. Not only am I on the verge of completing my B.Ed in Adult Education (which I’ve been working on part time for far longer than I had planned) but a few significant events have come up which involve all kinds of learning.
In early March, I was interviewed by Guelph University radio CFRU’s Dor Leung for a show called “Hands and Tails”. The topic was bears. Ms. Leung invited me to discuss bear imagery in my art, Aboriginal views of the animal and sustenance hunting. Other guests included a curator who discussed the city’s Begging Bear statue and a bee keeper who spoke about his trials and tribulations with bears. It was a well-rounded show with meaningful perspectives. I was happy to inject some learning about Aboriginal spiritual culture in the mix and my own personal observations about bears that most people would likely never experience. What made this interview even more special is that Dor, a student at the University, later shared her own goals and dreams. It was one of those days where you realize just how positive learning can be and that it comes in many different ways, not just the classroom.
Last week, another student, Jillian Zinn of Laurentian University, emailed to ask if I would be willing to answer some interview questions for a paper she was writing for her “Indigenous Arts of the Americas” class. She was interviewing several artists for this paper and hoped to gain a better understanding of the role of art in various Native cultures. It turned out that the entire paper was done about me. Talk about flattering! And humbling! The truth is answering her questions forced me to reflect but not only about what I would tell her. I found myself faced with honestly answering questions about what was really important to me in my art, where I was going with it and what I hoped to achieve. In reading her finished paper out loud to my husband Fred, he exclaimed that I actually have a mission statement – a rarity for artists according to him! All in all, as much as Jillian is the one working for the grade, I learned as much about myself in this exercise as she learned about me.
The third event I want to share with you in this post is a little different. I was recently selected to participate in an event called Heritage Helmet Art. The event is to commemorate the history of the Queen’s York Rangers at the opening of the new John Graves Simcoe Armoury. The helmet artworks will be displayed at the Aurora Cultural Centre for a month before being auctioned during Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s Levee. There is also a tie-in with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. At first I wasn’t going to participate and even wondered if the committee had considered my French and Native heritage before contacting me. After all, the Queen’s York Rangers battled the French and were sent to Manitoba to quell the 1885 Riel uprising. During the War of 1812, if it wasn’t for the First Nations groups who fought with them, the British would certainly have lost Upper Canada to the US – and yet none of the treaty promises were kept by the Crown. It’s a maddening, sad and shameful state of affairs with far reaching implications to this day! On serious reflection, I chose to participate because I view this project as an opportunity for learning. There is no point in taking an “us vs. them” attitude today. After all, we’re honouring the Queen’s York Rangers – a group who were simply sent to do the politicians’ bidding. And in honouring the QYRangers, we can also honour the First Nations groups who fought beside them while reminding Canadians about the broken promises they are still owed. For me, the core of this project is an opportunity to start a very important dialogue about the truth behind our collective history.
Finally, as the second quarter of 2012 is set to begin, I look forward to presenting you “This is My Song: Perspectives from Contemporary Native Women”. This is an art exhibition, that I am curating, of diverse works from Native women artists from across Canada. The intent of this show is to provide a creative forum for presenting these talented artists to Canadians but also to share in some dialogue about who they are, where they come from and what is important to them. I hope you will be able to join us for this future learning opportunity at The Art Space in Huntsville, Ontario this June.
For details about any of these events, please email me, call me or visit www.nathaliebertin.com.