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As a celebration of the Saagajiwe centre opening in the Rogers Communication Centre, an Indigenous mural has been painted on the outside of the centre’s new space.
Saagajiwe, the Faculty of Communication and Design’s (FCAD) centre of support for Indigenous artists, has recently moved to the second floor of the Rogers Communications Centre (RCC).
The centre is operating, but the space in room 208 of the RCC, is not open yet.
The idea behind Saagajiwe, which is the Anishinaabemowin word meaning the first ray of light, is to foster an understanding of Indigenous worldviews and the relationship between the way we speak and the way we know.
Lila Pine is the Director of Saagajiwe and is of Mi’gmaw ancestry of the Bras d’Or First Nation.
“I wanted to create a space at Ryerson for people to have as a ceremonial space that would also double as an exhibition place,” Pine said. “Around the space we would have workshops, such as drum-making, basket making and at the same time, begin to learn the languages. That was kind of what I had in mind when I started the centre.”
The centre was launched in February 2017 under the name, Indigenous Communication and Design Network (ICAD). The name changed to Saagajiwe in the summer of 2017 during a traditional spiritual shake tent ceremony.
The centre never had a real home or presence on campus until now.
Pines and the Dean of FCAD, Charles Falzon, wanted the new space to have a bold visual presence in the building, according to Laura Heidenheim, Pine’s assistant and masters student at Ryerson.
Pine thought of creating a giant mural on the wall outside the centre’s door. To keep the project based within the community, she created a contest for Indigenous artist in Toronto who had to submit a visual proposal of what Saagajiwe meant to them.
Once Pine received the proposals, students participated in voting for their favourite.
Aura (Monique Bedard), of Onyota’a:ka (Oneida) Nation of the Thames was selected out of a group of multiple applicants to paint the mural.
Aura is based out of Toronto and graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a Bachelors of Fine Arts. She uses mixed media, beadwork, street art, art as healing and digital illustration to discuss intergenerational healing, identity, empowerment and mothering.
Work on the mural began in mid-January and finished Feb. 1. Aura worked on the mural with two young Indigenous artists.
According to Aura, the mural no longer looks like her proposal.
“It’s changed, especially since I am working with two Indigenous women, their voices get intertwined.” Aura said. “My initial vision is just my vision, so to have other people put their energy into it changes the vision and that is the beauty of it.”
Aura hopes to create a mural with multiple student voices intertwined into each stroke of paint. According to her, plants are extremely significant within the Indigenous culture for food, medicine, materials and in cultural rituals and mythology.
While Aura was painting, she asked students walking by which kind of plants are important to them.
One Ryerson student told Aura that peppermint was an important plant to her and so Aura drew small peppermint plants into the mural.
“I am inspired by storytelling and the healing journey, individually and as a community.,” Aura said. “I aim to address intergeneration trauma and intergenerational healing to communicate experiences from the inside out.”
The mural has since been completed and has given the Saagajiwe centre a bold presence in the RCC building.
According to Pine, more artwork is on its way.
“I want Ryerson campus covered with Indigenous art.”