As the child of parents who immigrated from Paraguay, growing up in northern Manitoba my entire world was influenced by the Cree culture in which I was immersed. As a young girl, on one of many trips up the Churchill River, I saw my first pictographs drawn on stone outcroppings high above the waterline, and yet so far down from the land that sat on top of it that I wondered how anyone could reach that space to draw in our time, never mind thousands of years ago. I was exposed to my first exhibit of artwork by Benjamin Chee Chee at the Exhibition Centre. With my classmates I visited an archeological site near the rapids on Churchill River, the ones after which my community, Leaf Rapids, was named.
At seventeen my family moved to Alberta when the life of the local mine became tenuous and my heart was broken. I cried to return to the silence of the boreal forest, to the endless and abundantly clean waters, and to the aurora borealis in all its glory. In 1988 I returned to be married and though things had changed because of the struggles of the entire community, the land and its history remained the same. I spent hours in the Exhibition Centre, dreaming of the days I was taught to weave and bead, and of the times I spent in the woods with my childhood friends. This place north of 56 where I learned to survive in the wilderness as part of my public education; where I was introduced to the beauty of creative expression through the work of the Woodland Artists; where we came together to celebrate the Winter Carnival, racing in snowshoes, baking bannock, watching the dog sled races; where we were raised to nurture nature. I never wanted to leave.
And now, I have finally found a way to fill the hole left in my heart when I left the north. This work, each piece both a symbolic representation and also physically a sacred vessel for me, is filled with the images, colours and symbols of my memory.
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