They say many hands make light work, but the new mural recently installed at NorthLight Innovation was a massive undertaking for the dozens of community members who helped create it.
The horizontal piece stretches across an upper wall at Cospace. It depicts two seasons (summer and winter), and day and night, along with the Yukon River and the Northern lights. The shapes, including people gathered around fires and playing with their families, are stylized. The colours are vibrant and as varied as the community members who chose them.
That’s because there wasn’t any single artist behind the work. Under the guidance of a small team, many collaborated on this depiction of the Yukon.
The project was led by Lianne Charlie, a Yukon Indigenous artist who teaches Indigenous Governance at Yukon College, and is a PhD Candidate in Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. With the support of Kaitlyn Charlie, Youth Recreation Program Coordinator for Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Courtney Terriah, KDFN Youth Worker, and Julia Veidt, Youth Tutor for Kwanlin Dün First Nation; all of whom mentored Teya Rear, a youth artist from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.
Together, Lianne, Teya, Kaitlyn, Courtney and Julia prepared a mural image on plywood, then invited the community to paint it during four separate community workdays, including weekends at Nakwät’à kų, KDFN’s potlatch house.
Fifteen people from the community also painted 96 “sunrise and northern light sticks” that radiate out from the mural, and Teya made five individual circles, depicting Indigenous innovations in hunting, fishing, sewing, tanning hides and mothering/birthing.
Throughout the process, Dianne Smith, a Kwanlin Dün Elder, was involved to contribute cultural and geographic knowledge, and to ensure the work was done in a good way.
“Our work draws inspiration from the land, plants, animals, and Indigenous peoples’ practices, history, politics and culture to create a sense of connection to place. Our work is vibrant and inherently Northern,” reads the proposal for the piece. “NorthLight aims ‘to empower Yukoners to bring their ideas to life in a creative, innovative community.’ This mural demonstrates that Northlight is actually joining a well-established creative, innovative community—that of the Kwanlin Dün and Ta’an Kwäch‘än Peoples, here, and all Indigenous Peoples in the North. Our mural is both a showcase of Indigenous lifeways and practices of innovation and creativity and an invitation to the NorthLight community to continue this legacy here, on this land, in responsible, informed and respectful ways.”