Through the Clay Project facebook page, Ginger Cote sent an inspiring description of the tile she made for the community mural. Thank you so much Ginger for sharing the explanation of your tile with us.
Words by Ginger Cote, April 2017
My art piece was a reflection of what was on my mind with regard to lectures we had received in INDIG1000 earlier in the week. We had linguist Rebekah Ingram come in to lecture about 'Language on the Land'. In her lecture she described how language and names of places tell a story of the land and how Indigenous words and meanings were misinterpreted by settlers when Canada was first being colonized and mapped out. In my piece, I wanted to reflect this idea.
As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, Indigenous people also reflect on the 150 years + of struggle on Turtle Island. While I was thinking of this, I realized I was using my art as a tool in the same way in which Garneau has. Where in his article, 'Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation', he states, 'I want to signal that something interesting is going on beyond the colonial gaze. At the same time by using dominant culture vernacular. 'Furthermore, in his article, there is a section where he describes the work of a young Africa America who designs his work in a way that is 'closed to the Eurocentric gaze'. I think that this is what I was going for in my contribution to Canada's 150th. In my art piece, I depicted my own version of Ingram's lecture wherein she told a story of how certain places were incorrectly named. She spoke of a meeting of settlers asking Indigenous people in that region what the name of their camp was. The Indigenous persons thinking that they were asking where they got off their canoe gave them a different answer in their language. In this clash of culture, it led to a misunderstanding based on their separate interpretations. As a result, it manifested itself into the incorrect name of the area. She pointed out that unless you were familiar with the language and people of the area, you could never have recognized or even understood the true meaning of the names which reflect the sentiments of the land. I think she referred to this as 'sacred geography'. Later on, we focused on an area of land which she knew was named in the spring. She knew this because it was a place which gets a lot of water that time of season. As a result it creates a never ending whirlpool in the river. To the local people, this was a sacred place which some have linked to the story of the Peacemaker. It may have been where the tree of peace was located or where the different nations in the Six Nations Confederacy threw down their weapons as a sentiment to peace. Though, to be honest, I can't remember exactly word for word what she said. However, in my art work I tied these ideas together and drew a picture of the river which led to the whirlpool on the route that the Indigenous people met with the Settlers. There were lines to represent the bush area where the conversations took place.
Eventually my river led to the whirlpool which turned into a never ending abyss. This was my interpretation and symbolism to depict the relationship between Indigenous people and Canada –how we are both here in this country and place, yet we are unable to understand each other. This then leads to the misrepresentation of this land which we both call home. It is a statement contrary to the utopia that has been publicized by the media and government to fuel patriotism. This is, when you question it, you can begin to see the cracks too. Much like our relationship to the state, in the end it is a reflection that comes full circle back to the story of Indigenous people thinking one thing and Canada thinking something else and how we are both in the same conversation but speaking different languages.
This was my contribution to the mural for Canada's 150th celebration from my perspective, as an Indigenous person in Canada and in Turtle Island. My artwork is not very good, but if someone ever looks at it and sees just a river with a hole in it and some lines, it would be perfectly fitting because just like Indigenous causes, they cannot see the enormous concept behind it. Eventually it will be just another small clay tile among many; lost somewhere in 'the nation's capital'.