Métis artists “make the revolution irresistible”
- Rose Mansbridge-Goldie | October 26, 2021
Holly Aubichon and Mackenzy Vida are decorating Treaty 4 Territory in ways that honour their Indigenous identities.
Aubichon, a Métis artist, recently started a new job as Administrative Director for the Regina artist collective, Sâkêwêwak, and then received the BMO 1st ART! Award for her oil painting “Modern Medicine.”
Earlier this year, when Aubichon was finishing a fine arts degree, she fell in love with the ancient Indigenous tattooing practice of skin stitching and is currently apprenticing to practitioner, Stacey Fayant.
“The apprenticeship is a passing down of a practice, so it is a long process. There's more socialization involved in learning to skin stitch,” compared to modern day, commercial tattooing, Aubichon said.
Tattooing brings pain that is emotionally healing, comparable to the physical healing that comes from sometimes painful treatments like acupuncture, Aubichon said.
Skin stitching is an intimate process.
“You pull the needle through the skin with a little tiny string attached and then you tap the ink in. When you pull and you wipe and there's a dash, it feels really empowering. There's a lot of beauty to it.”
Aubichon intends to keep the traditional practice alive as a way to give back to Indigenous people.
Aubichon looks forward to giving skin stitch tattoos and teaching whoever wants to learn.
“If we are going to revive the tradition, every Indigenous body who wants to learn should be able to,” Aubichon said.
Across town, her fellow fine arts graduate, Mackenzy Vida, an Algonquin-Métis artist, stands back from her parent’s garage door, spray paint in hand and examines a blue-green bear flanked by different flowers.
“The bear represents bravery and courage, mentioned in the Seven Grandfather Teachings, and my mom just likes (bears),” Vida said.
“The provincial flowers are for all the places my parents have lived: trilliums for Ontario, wild roses for Alberta, and prairie lilies for Saskatchewan,” she said, noting that she descends from Algonquin First Nations in Maniwaki, Quebec
Growing up, Vida’s dad’s family was quiet about their Indigenous heritage.
“My mom’s side is Ukrainian and we used to do things like make pysanka, traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs. I’ve always known there was more to our family but it wasn’t until recently I had the courage to incorporate my dad’s Algonquin heritage in my art,” Vida said.
Her dad’s family has opened up over time and Vida is learning about her culture so she can accurately honour it in her work.
“I was recently given a book in French, written by a relative of mine, that has images of art and traditional designs from the Indigenous populations in Québec.”
Art helps Vida learn about and share her Algonquin heritage while also prompting important conversations about Indigenous resurgence.
“The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible and I intend on doing exactly that.”
Art gives Vida peace in a world that sometimes feels unwelcoming and uncertain.
“I’ve always struggled with my mental health and art therapy was a huge part of my journey—creativity comes in waves but I never stop drawing,” she said.
Vida is preparing to paint a mural in a Balfour Collegiate classroom to give the Indigenous students pride.
“The impact my work can have and the potential to bring life to a space encourages me to keep going.”