COVID-19 for Families
Category Archives: Art Therapy ProjectsImage
From February 22nd to 24th, Canadian Roots Exchange and its partners invited me to facilitate a 3-day emergent sculpture as part of the Foraging Our Paths youth conference. Participants were Indigenous and non-indigenous who attended came from coast to coast. They were invited to bring objects from their homeland together create a group sculpture as part of the dialogue around environmental violence and land relations.
Hosted by Concordia University’s 4th space, local resources were donated for the project including garbage, recycling and other found objects. Participants were invited to explore the objects and use them to tell a story about their relations to the land. Some came in with ideas and others used the materials to speak for them. All objects were secured using different glue-based fixtures.
Over our time together, conversations emerged around natural resources, climate change, capitalism and the role of each of us in building bridges to a healthier world. Many brought their experiences with infrastructures and some brought their innocence. Together we were able to bridge community through land.
These conversations came a critical time, when communities across the nation were coming together to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people in their stance against the Canadian pipeline proposed to run through their community. In a long line of history of land removal in this way, barricades and teachings went viral around indigenous history and the importance of speaking for the land.
Between November 30th and December 1st, I facilitated a 12 hour mural weekend workshop to help a group of youth envision and create an image to reflect their conversation about decolonization.
Beginning with an open studio art-hive approach, the group was invited to visually and symbolically explore their experience of privilege, decolonization and reconciliation. As a collective, we co-created a unified image that reflected each voice within the process. Through this project, it was evident how the creative process can support individuals to process challenging social, political and person content as well as build a sense of community.
Thank you CRE Youth Reconciliation Initiative, Press Start, Concordia’s office of community engagement and the Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK for inviting me to build a creative community with these young change-makers. This mural can be seen at Batiment 7.
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
As I have been given authorization and consent to share this artwork, I would like to share an art therapy project that was led from July 13th to the 20th 2018. During this time, I spent 6 days at a medium security prison leading an art therapy week with 26 male indigenous inmates.
Initially, the project was intended to be a mural painted by myself for the inmates to enjoy but with organizational support, it was allowed to transform into something powerful. From the start, my intention was to support the men themselves to create a mural by indigenous men for indigenous men with input throughout the entire process. We explored the impact of multigenerational trauma, the ways we may have learned to survive, resiliency building and creating a community within the penitentiary.
Together, from prepping the mural concept, to holding space for personal narratives and to completing this final 18 by 10 foot wall, we were able to integrate ceremony and traditional medicine with the exploration of identity and healing from the perspectives of different nations. They shared stories of residential school, the impact of colonization and their experiences in restoring culture for themselves and found within them the strength to try a piece of the painting process and grow from it. Many shared the experience of relaxation, meditation and being present within the project, emphasizing that making art helped them to release and let go of built up emotions and discover themselves in ways they never thought they could.
Playing a dual role of artist and art therapist was challenging, but I facilitated the project so that all the men had either verbal or written input for the design and the creative process as well as support to go through the art-making and narratives that emerged. I may, at the end of the day, have given the wall the “touche magique” and a safe space for the men to explore themselves, but the men gave each other many teachings as well. From mastering the ‘franglais’ language to having the courage to be vulnerable and uncover hope, self and indigenaiety.
Painting opened a window for these men and I am honored to have been a part of the experience.
Skátne ionkwatehiahróntie’ is a youth-led grass roots program dedicated to supporting young families under the age of 25 in parenting and caring for children, including young parents, pregnant women and couples, youth thinking of starting families as well as sibling caregivers, aunts, uncles, step parents, two spirited and LGBTTIQQA community members.
The mission of the group is to explore and decolonize child development, sexual health, and parenting through an arts-based look into our Haudensosaunee seven rights of passage ceremonies, creation story and other land/traditional knowledge. This program also aims to combat the shame, stigma and “failed” labels young parents face with empowerment and cultural restoration.
Using traditional teachings as the root, the program also helps to heal and understand the effects of generational trauma from residential schools and colonization. We weave together theories of attachment and security with Haundenosaunee Rites of Passage, land and ceremonial Teachings to explore reproductive health and parenting as a package, from safe sex tools to defining consent and boundaries to deconstructing healthy relationships to understanding the behaviour of children as a result of our own.
(Learning traditional medicine preparation)
(learning about the body through planting and our Creation Story)
Through these teachings in the land, we explore our relationships to our bodies, to the Earth and to our ancestors.
As a second layer, the program uses interactive activities and art-therapy/art-education models to work towards this decolonization of sexual and reproductive health as well as colonial models of health.
(At the end of each week, we draw/write/paint in response to our teachings, discussions and play.)
The young parents group has thus far successfully completed two sessions, each lasting 10 weeks. There is a growing demand and waiting list of young parents, parents-to-be, and youth wanting to participate in the program both within the community and outside.
Funding this program will allow us to continue developping and offering the program and will help us towards sustainability with the other organizations in the community and long term funders. Meeting our goal would allow us to provide a year’s worth of programming totaling 30 weeks which includes facilitator fees, art supples, elder honorariums, and food.
Please support Indigenous young parents to parent and support youth to develop, love and grow themselves. As an Indigenous young parent myself, I know how important support, education and culturally safe spaces are to parenting and my own identity development.
We are important too.
(Learning about tracking our moontime and what role it plays as life givers and as women)
To see what we’ve been up to, visit https://www.facebook.com/OurFamiliesGrowTogether