The Thompson Urban Aboriginal Strategy (TUAS) and artist Jasyn Lucas unveiled a series of seven paintings reflecting the history of Northern Manitoba from Indigenous and northern women’s perspectives at the Thompson Regional Community Centre (TRCC) Nov. 29.
The paintings, each one representing one of the seven sacred teachings – respect, humility, wisdom, truth, courage, love and honesty – were based on research done by FemNorthNet examining the impacts of economic restructuring on Indigenous and northern women.
That research was inspired by a desire to expand the history of the Thompson area in the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation traditional territory beyond that which concerned the development of Thomson as a mining community.
“Maybe we’re exposing people to another lens of history,” said TUAS chair Charlene Lafreniere.
Paintings were chosen as the medium to depict Indigenous women's stories and history in an effort to inspire discussion in the community and encourage women to share their stories and deepen the documented history of the Thompson region.
Originally, the idea was to have stories focusing on the area from both the pre- and post-Thompson eras on a mural, but ultimately an art series was settled on, with the people who collected the stories essentially saying to Lucas “we entrust you to create this art series on our behalf," Lafreniere said.
As an Indigenous man who was adopted by a white family, Lucas’s own life is part of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, which made creating the paintings more meaningful.
“They’re a little bit more intense and emotional to work on,” said Lucas. "Some of them are quite upsetting. As an urban indigenous artist I’m still learning what some of these stories are myself. At the same time I wanted to have that feeling of hope.”
As someone who has usually worked on images from dreams and daydreams in the past and avoided politically and socially charged content, Lucas said the project helped him mature as an artist.
“It was all based on those timelines and really great research,” he said, but he had to close his eyes and look inside himself for inspiration. “How can I take these stories and make them relatable?”
Lafreniere said in an introduction to the series handed out to those who came to view it that it reflects the pain and beauty of the experiences of Indigenous women.
“We hope that this series inspires you to share your story or to understand our different experiences. Just as important, we hope to create understanding, promote truth and reconciliation and inspire action."
The paintings were displayed at the TRCC multi-purpose from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.