Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church on Main.taking shape along the south wall of the
To one side, a wash of colours and shapes expand out. A cross-section of land hovers just below a a diving narwhal. A primitive blue-faced figure holds a large fish to its right. All are encapsulated by two expansive blue lungs, lending the piece its name, Aqua Lungs.
Mural artists Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson of PA System have a long history of collaborating with Indigenous peoples and performing activism through their art. They’ve spent the past ten years travelling around Nunavut and Nunavik running public arts programming for youth. For this mural, they’ve collaborated with seventeen-year-old Parr Josephee, an artist currently living in Toronto, but originally from Cape Dorset. Explaining the mural’s components, Alexa says, “Right now the community of Clyde River in Nunavut is fighting seismic testing in their waters. They’re taking on big oil themselves. Our piece was inspired by their efforts. Parr’s from Nunavut, so we wanted to do something that was meaningful to us as a group. Here we have the land, which is the slice underneath the water, the narwhal, and the human.”
“The area around Clyde River is where 90% of the world’s narwhal are, and they, amongst other marine animals, would be threatened by this seismic blasting. Our piece is visually connecting the land to the animals and humans to show the interconnection. If the marine animals are affected, it affects everything, including human life. The two lung shapes in the background are meant to be a breath of life.”
“Parr drew the human. It’s actually him, catching his first fish, a sturgeon, this past summer up in northern Ontario. There they have a lot of hydro electric dams in their rivers. As a result, the fish have extremely high levels of mercury. It’s interesting to see how so many Indigenous communities are having to take on these related fights to have a say over what happens to their land, how they may continue their culture, and their way of life.”
Further along the wall, an Indigenous woman with a crown of muskox pores over a human heart, stitching it together with needle and thread. The piece, titled Mending, is artists' Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack’s way of remembering Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
As described by Shalak and Smoky, “Muskox are well known for circling in the vulnerable members of their group and protecting them against any outside harm. The ring of muskox on the woman’s hat represents the surrounding communities coming together for her protection.”
“The young woman is strong, beautiful, loving, nurturing, and an empowered figure. Her act of “Mending” is symbolic of the healer, and reconstruction of the broken or missing pieces of our communities.”
The murals launch on the night of Nuit Blanche, and will serve as the end-point for the Rainbow Trout Bike Jam. Cyclists and other visitors will be treated to a free concert, youth arts programming led by Graffiti Gallery artist Jessica Canard, and a barbecue.
The project is part of a larger plan by Synonym Art Consultation, Graffiti Gallery and the North End Community Renewal Corporation. Synonym co-founder Andrew Eastman explains, “We want to bring colour and safe community spaces to this area."
"We’re working with NECRC and Graffiti to get building owners to convert unused spaces into art studios and buildings. The eventual goal is to go to the city and have them designate Point Douglas as an arts district. We’re hoping that established galleries will develop satellite locations here.”