Student exhibit explores complex issues

Ashcroft and Cache Creek students create works of art while learning about aboriginal history. Exhibition on March 7 at the high school.

Ashcroft and Cache Creek students have been working with The Melawmen Collective (An Aboriginal Arts and Music Collective based in Ashcroft, founded by Meeka Morgan) since October, learning aboriginal history through storytelling, with a focus on the creation of introspective and reflective pieces in the mediums of  acrylic on canvas, spoken word and original songs, digital art, mixed media portraits, and others.

Through many workshops, students from Gr. 4-12 were able to develop a more in depth understanding of our own local history, from an aboriginal perspective. They explored historical documents such as the “Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Premier of the Dominion of Canada: From the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan, and Couteau Tribes of BC, 1910” (the nations are now called the Secwepemc, Syilx, and N’lakapamux), which was a letter telling the story of the experience of colonization, affirming the nation’s collective title to their territories, as well as the effects of colonization on the people. Check it out online at: http://shuswapnation.org/wordpress/wpcontent/uploads/2012/09/137543_ShuswapNation_Bro.pdf. The letter is beautifully written (translated by James Teit, explorer and ethnographer), showing the heart of the people.

Also explored were the impacts on families of the Secwepemc people in this area in the last 60 years, through readings of a variety of poetic narratives, contemporary aboriginal art and music, and work with a multitude of artists and musicians from the local area.

The workshops brought many complex issues to light. There were evident feelings of anger, denial, guilt, sadness, powerlessness and expressions of misunderstanding and apology. Yet these feelings only added to the power of the pieces, and were only part of the process that brings understanding between all of us that make up our beautiful country’s people. When non-aboriginal people came to this territory, they were greeted with feelings of welcome and acceptance. Aboriginal peoples wanted to work with the newcomers to build the country into something “good and great”. It is important that all people realize this, and do not forget that. That is what was envisioned for the foundation of this work.

Students were encouraged to create their own pieces based on their interests. In less than two months, 11 pieces of spoken word with music as well as original songs, were recorded from the students. One of the songs was a collaborative effort that included a whole class.

We are sending out a public invitation for all to come out and support the powerful work created and exhibited at the Ashcroft Secondary School on March 7. There will be a daytime open house, then a reception at 6 pm. Students as well as The Melawmen Collective will be providing performances for the public at this time as well.

Meeka Morgan