New mural a labour of love, community, and dreaming within Black & Indigenous Futures
›› Stephanie Papik
When I first purchased 1919 Fernwood Road in 2019, I envisioned a mural along the driveway entrance, a mural on the back of the building, or possibly one inside. I shared this dream with good friend and artist Nicole Neidhardt. Nicole and I walked around the building, scoping out potential areas we could maybe one day paint a mural.
Fast forward into the pandemic, one day in March, Mila Czemerys walked into Knotty by Nature Fibre Arts and asked Ryan Davis if Knotty by Nature would like to be a part of Fernwood Mural Festival, happening that June 26. To which he said, yes! Fernwood Neighborhood Resources Group and Knotty by Nature Fibre Arts were the sponsors of the mural. Thank you!
A dream come true! I reached out to Nicole to share the serendipitous news! Let’s take a moment to introduce Nicole. I first met Nicole through the Indigenous Youth Internship Program, a provincial Indigenous leadership development program, and since then have had many opportunities to collaborate with a shared vision.
Nicole is Diné (Navajo) of Kiiyaa’áanii clan on her mother’s side and a blend of European ancestry on her father’s side. Her Diné family is from Round Rock, Arizona and she grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Tewa territory. Nicole received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Business minor from the University of Victoria, on Lkwungen Territory and she recently completed her Master of Fine Arts at OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario. You can read about Nicole’s MFA thesis exhibit “Stories Held in a Time Traveller’s Hogan” at nicoleneidhardt.com/stories-held-in-a-time-travellers-hogan. You can find more of Nicole’s work on Instagram at @navabear12.
With the opportunity to create a mural, our conversations lead us on a path to bring community together with intention. Making time and space to explore the parts of our lives that empower us, that connect us to one another, and to the Lands and Waters that sustain us.
A small circle of Indigenous and Black femmes and two-spirits were invited to gather—together we envisioned future worlds for ourselves and our communities. We spoke of what rejuvenates us—what we noticed emerging. We practiced turning our worries into prayers. The energy and conversations that arose from our gathering informed Nicole’s design for the mural.
This mural is a community-based project to support how we intentionally come into relation with each other as we emerge from our time of isolation, reflection and hard times, and loss. A key theme that emerged is centering Indigenous and Black femmes, Mother Earth, and each of us drawing on our ancestral knowledge, practice, and connection to plant medicines.
We did this by inviting local community members to contribute a personal or ancestral plant medicine—31 people shared 42 plants. To learn more about the plants, some ancestral use of them visit kbnfibres.ca.
These plants and the mural were completed with the help of 15+ community members who showed up and offered a helping hand. The day of the mural festival, 45 people offered their handprint to the mural—the youngest being under 2 years old. The mural is 3 stories high and 14 feet wide. It took four weeks to complete with over 296 human hours. 97 people were directly involved in some capacity in its creation. We have deep gratitude for each and every one of you!
Come down to 1919 Fernwood Road and check it out! It’s highly visible from the road and you can find parking nearby to pause and take a good look. There is lots to see!
You will see that we included bubbles, a homage to Terry Wilson, the Fernwood Bubble Man who has delighted young folks of all ages in Fernwood Square for as long as I can remember. And in my Inuit culture, our spirits are in bubbles in our bodies, and when we pass on, the bubble is released from our bodies into the air. These bubbles are also a representation of the spirits of ancestors of these lands and our ancestors.
May all of our ancestors support us in doing good work while we are visitors here. Support us in acts of reciprocity and gratitude to the Nations who are gracious hosts. These Nations carry deep lines of knowledge and practice that can guide out of these globalized intergenerational impacts of colonization. To quote Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
All my relations,
Paniguvluk – Stephanie Papik and Nicole Neidhardt.