Indigenous artists take up space in downtown Regina
- Jonnie Deneyou | July 27, 2023
Geanna Dunbar and Brandy Jones along with dozens of volunteers took the intricate art of loom beading to epic proportions in a giant mural lining the entirety of the F.W. Hill Mall.
The more than 2,600 circles come together to form a large-scale depiction of beadwork in a mural project that’s called the Path to Reconciliation.
“We wanted to create a piece that acknowledges the history of the land,” said Dunbar.
Juxtaposed against the normally dull pavement are eight long rows of the brightly coloured circles all of which were individually traced and painted by hand.
However, to fully appreciate the images of flowers, vines, geometric patterns and animals one has to see it from above.
“We incorporated the colours of the medicine wheel, the aurora borealis and (water),” said Dunbar.
They chose to emulate loom beadwork because as an artform it shows the influence European trade goods had on the Indigenous economy.
“We wanted to acknowledge that glass beads and seed beads came with colonization,” said Dunbar. “Before that we would adorn ourselves with porcupine quills, shells, bones and those types of things, so to honour that we chose the flower and vines to represent the earth and what it gives...Plus being a Mètis person, I’m just drawn to them naturally.”
The project started because Regina Downtown BID and the Creative City Centre wanted to do something to liven up Scarth Street with a focus on Reconciliation, so they approached Dunbar and Jones.
“Immediately, when they said path, I thought beadwork because I thought it would be a strong visual,” said Dunbar. “I truly believe as an independent artist and as Indigenous artists we should be able to take over as much space as we can.”
Once they agreed to take on the monumental task, they recruited Audrey Dreaver from the First Nations University of Canada as a cultural consultant and Elder Brenda Dubois to advise them on how to proceed.
The art installation was completed on June 16th – but officially opened to the public on National Indigenous People’s Day.
The project became a labour of love for everyone involved.
For two weeks the artists and volunteers endured the ever-changing Saskatchewan summer weather to complete the mural.
There were many mornings after a big storm, when Dunbar and Jones would have to physically remove all the water from the area or pick up the metal barriers before work could continue.
Everyday without fail people showed up.
“It just flew by even with the insane storms,” said Dunbar. “The community outreach was really good. We had the RCMP come out, as they should, and then we had Harvard Broadcasting come out and paint. We had interest from autism groups. We had people from all cultures come out.”
One of the standout moments happened in the early morning hours.
Each day the team lit a smudge to start the day, the scent of burning sage that drifted in the morning breeze attracted the people who live in the downtown area who asked if they could also smudge themselves.
“The project helped create a community in the downtown area,” said Dunbar.
What she loves most about the mural is that it’s not perfect.
“Every painted glass bead isn’t a perfect circle which encapsulates how nothing is ever truly flawless in life,” said Dunbar.
The artists are happy with what they were able to create, but say they’re not done.
“We have all these big plans we are really trying to make groundwork for and this is just the first step of that dedication,” she said.