Local, area residents enjoy three-day Indigenous Arts Workshop
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout and area residents participated in a three-day Indigenous Ways of Knowing Through the Arts workshop from July 16 to 19.
Hosted at Sioux Mountain Public School, the course was sponsored by the Sioux Lookout Youth Poverty Reduction Strategy, which is funded by the Ontario Government and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The project is working in partnership with the Winnipeg Holistic Expressive Arts Therapy Institute in building the community's capacity to offer therapeutic expressive arts experiences to youth, both in school and in youth service organizations. The course is part of a year-long certificate program in Expressive Arts Facilitation, which began last July.
The workshop offered participants exposure to the Indigenous world view through Indigenous art and personal artmaking, while exploring methodologies, concepts, cultural perspectives, ceremony and art forms of Indigenous people. Participants learned from Anishinaabe knowledge keeper and educator Victoria McIntosh, who is from Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba.
“I’ve been teaching artwork for about 30 years, and I just graduated with my Bachelors of Education and I’m going to get my Masters. I enjoy education through artwork and storytelling,” said McIntosh.
“This is my first time here. The people are amazing and so friendly. My husband and I noticed that it’s so friendly here with some nice, quiet nature,” she added.
Participants started each day with a sharing circle. From there they went in to their learning sessions which included expressionism on day one, woodlands style art on day two, and introducing the negative painting aspect.
“We go over painting techniques, so what I do is bring a western perspective on the different techniques like how you use your mediums. The focus isn’t just woodlands style, but that’s part of it. I bring a lot of styles like on the first day we covered expressionism so, if you can’t say it, how would you express yourself in visual arts. It’s very therapeutic,” said McIntosh.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been learning some new things… I do paint, but I’ve never done positive and negative painting before,” said Jim Oskineegish, workshop participant.
McIntosh shared that, even through basic teachings, people are often surprised at the skills that are awakened from within them during these types of workshops.
“They would be amazed with themselves, what’s been dormant, and what has been asleep… I always start from basics, like basic shapes. People start to notice shapes around them, and they find themselves seeing different shapes and different symbolism. As Anishinaabe people, we didn’t have that written language but we had a lot of symbolism,” she said.
During the workshop, participants also explored how art can assist as a tool for healing in the reconciliation process. McIntosh shared that there is a need for similar workshops to help increase awareness and to allow others to share their stories.
“I find that there is a need for workshops like this for awareness because you have the topics of missing and murdered women, the truth and reconciliation, the residential school legacy. For me, just my story alone, I am a survivor. I spent eight years in residential school. I always wanted to be a teacher; I just didn’t know how I was going to do this… We all have a story to tell,” she said.
When asked if she would host a similar workshop in Sioux Lookout in the future, McIntosh shared that she would without hesitation.
“Definitely. I love Sioux Lookout… I find the people so friendly, and the land so beautiful,” she concluded.