A new mural created by French-First Nations artist Alanah Astehtsi Otsistohkwa (Morningstar) Jewell was recently unveiled in downtown Barrie, Ont.
Titled The Land Knows You, the mural is the latest project from the Downtown Barrie Business Improvement Area (BIA). With the help of local sign shop Owen Signcraft, it was installed on the wall of the city’s well-known pink building.
An illustrator, painter, and muralist, Jewell is part of the Bear Clan from Oneida Nation of the Thames. She grew up off-reserve, in Barrie, and is now living in Kitchener, Ont. Jewell has previously designed artwork for Roots Canada, Facebook, Instagram, and Google.
“We’re honoured and excited to have Alanah’s artwork in downtown Barrie,” says Sarah Jensen, communications and public realm co-ordinator for the Downtown Barrie BIA. “Projects such as this one encourage people to explore and interact with their surroundings, which in turn helps create a more vibrant and safer space.”
The project was further supported by building company Pratt Homes and their Art Builds Communities partnership, along with Coun. Sergio Morales and former councillor Natalie Harris.
In a statement about her mural, Jewell explains the significance of the imagery it contains.
She says, “The sun will teach us about beginning new every day, and the importance of providing light and warmth.
The moon will teach us about the cycles of life and the importance of water. She will teach us that our bodies’ cycles are sacred and will tell us stories of Grandmother Moon.
The stars will teach us about navigation and our ancestors’ journeys across this land. They will tell us about a time, thousands of years ago, when each of our ancestors started as someone living in harmony with each other and with the land.
The bears will teach us about rest, protecting our young, and the importance of strength. They will teach us about survival.
The fish will teach us about the depth of the water and the vastness of aquatic life. He will teach us that the water is worth healing and protecting.
The eagles will teach us about wisdom, guidance, and a connection to the spirit world. They will tell us about our Creation stories.
The cedars will teach us about standing tall and strong. They will tell us to give thanks for this life and the medicines that are abundant all around us.”
“I want The Land Knows You to bring peace, joy, and remembrance,” adds Jewell. “I want it to convince people to honour the life around them and to be thankful that we get to experience life as a physical being, surrounded by so much beauty. I hope that each time someone walks by this mural, they remember where they come from and how loved they are by the Land.”