Artist from Lac Seul First Nation making waves with new video collaboration
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
An Indigenous artist with ties to Lac Seul First Nation and the Sioux Lookout community is making waves with his new video collaboration.
Blake Angeconeb, now living in Winnipeg, MB, recently had the opportunity to work with Canadian music icon Buffy Sainte-Marie on a video project titled “Paddling on Both Sides”. The video was created as part of the Downie Wenjack Fund’s video series Reconciliation Begins With You. The animated video, which showcases Angeconeb’s trademark blend of Woodland style art with pop culture refences, depicts Sainte-Marie travelling down a river by canoe. Angeconeb’s young nephew North and niece River are along for the ride as is their beagle, Buddy. In a voiceover, Sainte-Marie says, in part, “Sometimes, there’s just so much sad news about Indigenous people…let’s talk about the opposites too, all the good stuff invented by us Indigenous people of the Americas…if all we think about is one side or the other, we just go in circles, so remember to paddle on both sides of the canoe. That’s how you get somewhere.”
When asked about his artistic beginnings, Angeconeb explained, “What I usually tell people is I was painting with my younger niece, I think it was around 2013, we were painting, like, Hello Kitty in the house. It was my first time actually painting or creating something. I never took art in school or had any interest in art, but that’s where it started… I just realized I enjoyed painting.” Angeconeb considers his style to be a mix of traditional and modern, stating, “Well, it is Woodland art, Norval (Morrisseau) was the one who brought that form of art to a bigger platform, like, exposure, taking stories and traditions that were captured usually by petroglyphs and that sort of art. I resonated a lot with his artwork so I took that, and started blending that with more modern or pop culture references. There was an influence where I got that, too. There was an artist out of Fort William, his name is Christian Chapman, he had a screen print with a metal band’s t-shirt incorporated into his print, I just loved it.”
Angeconeb spent time both in Lac Seul First Nation and Sioux Lookout before winding up in Winnipeg, MB. As he explains, “My dad’s side of the family is from Lac Seul, I’m a band member of Lac Seul First Nation. I lived in Lac Seul for about two years after high school then I also worked at Tikinagan, so I was in Sioux for maybe six years. That Buffy piece, they (River and North) are the people in the boat, the kids in the boat. When I lived in Sioux lookout I lived there and so I kind of grew up them while they were babies.”
So how does a relatively new artistic talent wind up collaborating with a Canadian music Icon? Angeconeb explains the process, stating, “On the Downie Wenjack Fund, I’m one of their artist ambassadors. Audra, one of the producers from there, contacted me and said ‘Hey, we have this opportunity, someone backed out. We were wondering if you want to take part in this, it’s going to be series of short animations with Justin Stevenson. He’s the one who did the animation for the Chanie Wenjack short film.”
Angeconeb continued, “I’ve been taking on every project people have thrown at me, just to get that experience. There were four other animations. I got thrown into a zoom meeting and they were kind of brainstorming, like, ‘Who’s your dream person to narrate? We want you all to dream big…think of anybody.’ So, I immediately thought of Buffy (Sainte-Marie), and that was my request. They said ‘Okay, we’ll see what we can do.’ Then a few weeks later we made a little pitch, it got emailed to Buffy and she loved it. It went from there.”
How was it working with Sainte-Marie? “At first it was very separate, but then we started going into weekly zoom meetings and we would have a meeting every Thursday. That was just the start of it! We are working on a second one right now, so we are doing one more for the Downie Wenjack Fund, and then Buffy has some other plans that she wants to do aside from there.”
The reactions to the collaboration have been positive to say the least. As Angeconeb explains, “All the reactions to the video have been positive. Everything seems to be on social media. Facebook, Instagram, even Twitter, recently. They (social media platforms) all have their different audiences, it seems. Facebook is all like Aunties and Uncles, Instagram’s like a younger group that loves the pop culture stuff, and then Twitter. If I post a pop piece on Twitter, no one likes it, it seems it’s more of a…professional following, I guess you would say. They each have their different crowd, I’ve noticed. But across all three, it was all good reactions for that piece.”
As for the future of his artistic career, Angeconeb remains optimistic. “There’s so many ways it can go, it’s so open ended. I have lots of projects coming up. I’ve been super busy, I just kind of want to see where it takes me. I’m working every day at it.”
You can view the video “Paddling on Both Sides” on the “Reconciliation Begins With You” Facebook page at https://bit.ly/3q892yw.