In July, the elders and I organized a mural project for ten Indigenous male inmates as part of their group work towards holistic and culturally safe healing at a federal prison. Together, from drawing the concept to its final realization, we spent two weeks co-creating a wall mural that extended throughout their cell block.
It was a moment of positive social exchange and teamwork as well as a moment of self-reflection and building cultural identity. It was access to cultural safety, identity and self-expression; it was trauma work.
There was both laughter and seriousness as we spent time in candid conversation, casually painting. There were moments of focus, contemplation and the delight of mixing colours. There was pride and courage to try something new as well as unconditional support when self doubt spoke too loud. There was joy and there was gratitude. Overtime, the wall began to transform into a change of seasons that blended each of their traditional territories, mirroring their own growth as people.
On the surface, what we created during those two weeks was a large colouring painting but what we really did was make social change