Giving young Aboriginal artists and writers a voice

Historica Canada Aboriginal Arts & Stories competition recognizes emerging talent

Modern medicine can be a wonderful thing. But for some, notes Kecia Cook, it’s definitely a mixed bag.

Cook, of the Misipawistik Cree Nation near Regina, made a statement about modern medicines with her submission to this year’s Historica Canada Aboriginal Arts & Stories competition—a painting, entitled Maskihkiwiwat, that shows a traditional Cree medicine bag decorated with a pharmaceutical pill bottle.

“Maskihkiwiwat is the translation to medicine bag in Cree . . . I created this bag to make a statement about modern medicines that . . . have replaced most traditional medicines,” says Cook. “Addictions are one epidemic that spreads across the nation. Modern medicines can be used to bring life, but they can also bring death into our communities.

“This medicine bag can be seen as a sign of life and hope, or it can be a sign of pain and suffering,” she adds. “But there is still the passing of hope through traditional teachings. I carry sacred and natural medicine in this medicine bag to carry on the message of healing, traditional teachings, hope and life for our future generations.”

Cook, 23, recently took top spot in the senior arts designation, for competitors aged 19 through 29, as the 2016 Historica Canada Aboriginal Arts & Stories competition, presented by Enbridge, named its category winners during a celebration event at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Hamilton, ON. Winners were selected from more than 650 submissions from across Canada.

“Submissions from young Indigenous artists and storytellers provide a unique insight into the perceptions, past and present realities of their peoples,” notes Anthony Wilson-Smith, president of Historica Canada.

Other 2016 winners included:

  • Megan Benoit, 17, of Surrey, BC, in junior arts (14 to 18) for Medicinal Healing;
  • Joshua Whitehead, 26, of Calgary in senior writing (19 to 29) for mihkokwaniy;
  • Cyan-Raven Gielewska, 14, of Kitchener, ON, in junior writing (14 to 18) for I Remember;
  • Kane Pendry, 13, of Edmonton in emerging artist (9 to 13) for Wisdom in the Midst; and
  • David Anauta, 9, of Akulivik, QC, in emerging writer (9 to 13) for The Qallupilluit Boy.

The Aboriginal Arts & Stories competition invites First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists, aged 9 through 29, to use the visual or literary arts to interpret an aspect of their culture and heritage. Winners are chosen by a jury of accomplished Aboriginal authors, artists and community leaders.

Enbridge is committed to strengthening the communities near our projects and operations. Since 2005, we’ve acted as presenting sponsor of Historica Canada’s annual Aboriginal Arts & Stories competition—an event that gives young artists and writers a voice.

“These artists change us to open our minds and our hearts to differing perspectives,” says Eric Prud’Homme, Enbridge’s senior manager of stakeholder and Aboriginal engagement based in Ontario and Quebec, “while this competition provides greater insight into the history, art and culture of Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.”

Senior and junior category winners receive a prize of $2,000, and a trip to the Governor General’s History Awards at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

(TOP PHOTO: From left, Historica Canada 2016 Aboriginal Arts & Stories award winners Kecia Cook, Cyan-Raven Gielewska, Megan Benoit and Joshua Whitehead.)