Mural that explores Indigenous self-identity unveils in Halifax

The clay tile mural, This Is What I Wished You Knew, was unveiled at the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax June 21/Photo by Stephen Brake

An art project which explores Indigenous self-identity in Halifax was unveiled at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre as part of National Aboriginal Day celebrations Tuesday.

Approximately 80 people gathered for the unveiling of the clay tile mural project called, This Is What I Wish You Knew.

The mural is made up of 50 individual clay tiles, each one exploring the urban Indigenous identity in Halifax. Each tile was created one of the fifty people who participated in the four-month project at the friendship centre.

Participants shared their own personal stories or struggles and then used those stories as inspiration to create a piece of art on a tile.

Debbie Eisan, community events planner at the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre, stands by the tile she created/Photo by Stephen Brake
Debbie Eisan, community events planner at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, stands by the tile she created/Photo by Stephen Brake

Debbie Eisan, who works at the centre as the community events planner, served as a mentor/elder for the community members who took part in the project.

“Everyone has a story and by human nature, we think that our stories are the worst and we’ve gone through such a hard time,” Eisan said following the unveiling ceremony.

“But when you listen to people opening their hearts and sharing with you their deepest, (painful) moments, it humbles you,” she said.

“It’s the passion that people put into putting their stories on the tile,” Eisan added.

As part of the process, participants created their own drawings and then transferred the image on a piece of clay tile. The tiles were then left to dry out for several weeks before being placed in kiln in preparation for painting.

The project was one of six projects across Canada approved through the Canada Council for the Arts (RE) conciliation Initiative as part of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The initiative received funding from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

“Finding your true self is quite the awakening.” – David Ladouceur

David Ladouceur, 52, stands by the clay tile he created for the project, This Is What I Wished You Knew/Photo by Stephen Brake
David Ladouceur, 52, stands by the clay tile he created for the project, This Is What I Wished You Knew/Photo by Stephen Brake

David Ladouceur, 52, is Ojibway and one of the 50 people who created a clay tile based on his own personal journey of self-discovery.

“My tile is about my emergence about finding who I was and the struggles I had as a person, the inner struggle,” Ladouceur explained.

Ladouceur said he left Sudbury, Ont., and moved to Halifax in 1993 as a way of starting over.

“I was always in trouble because I didn’t know who I was,” he said. “When I came to Halifax 23 years ago, at that time in my life, it’s what I needed.”

Ladouceur, a father of four, now lives just outside of Halifax along the eastern shore with his own family.

“Finding your true self is quite the awakening, being able to show your kids you can be strong within the urban setting, that you can survive and make a good life,” Ladouceur explained.

“I wanted to put a million words into that tile and I think I got pretty close,” he said.

Each tile will have a QR code embedded into it that will link to an online video of the artist explaining his/her artwork at the website, thisiswhatiwishyouknew.com The mural will remain permanently at the centre.

Pamela Glode-Derochers, executive director of the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, said during the unveiling ceremony that she hopes to display some of the clay tiles at the Indigenous Innovation Summit in Edmonton, Alberta in November.

Eisan hopes more people in Halifax will visit the friendship centre, located on Gottingen street, to view the mural.

“I want Haligonians or whoever to see this wall, to understand that we are human beings and we all have a story to tell,” Eisan said.

“We all live our lives the best way that we know how.”


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About Maureen Googoo 139 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news for 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a post-graduate degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.