Above: Ari Gilbert (3rd place winner), Naima Young Pine (1st place winner), Lorali Day Chief (2nd place winner)
LETHBRIDGE- The four winners of the fourth annual Expressions of Reconciliation Art & Media Contest are being celebrated for their creativity, passion and consideration for the Reconciliation Week theme of “Voice & Representation”. On Friday, December 3, each winner was presented with a cash prize at a small, informal gathering at Casa, while their family members looked on with pride.
“Every piece we received this year did a great job of incorporating the theme,” said United Way Executive Director, Janelle Marietta following the presentation of the awards. “There is a lot of important meaning behind each of the submissions we received. We’re very honoured to be able to share these stories, and help to amplify voices and truths that ought to be heard.”
Each year, the contest is open to artists of all ages and abilities in Lethbridge and surrounding communities, and a variety of works are submitted, including photography, drawings, paintings, poetry, personal reflections, as well as audio-visual pieces. The prizes were collectively sponsored by the contest partner organizations, United Way, the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee and the Lethbridge Indigenous Sharing Network. The first, second and third place winners were chosen with the help of a jury, while the “People’s Choice” prize was awarded based on the results of a social media vote on Facebook.
Above: Janelle Marietta (Executive Director, United Way), Darlene Urban (People's Choice Winner), Adam Whitford (contest juror, Interim Curator, SAAG)
When she received the news that she was the first place winner, 16-year-old Naima Young Pine said she was shocked.
“I thought, ‘this is unbelievable’. I told my family all at the same time at dinner, and they were really happy for me, too.”
Young Pine’s poem, Life In My Eyes serves to remind readers that there is much more to a person than what can be seen on the outside, and also illustrates the harm that can be caused by perpetuating stereotypes.
“I wrote this poem to bring light to real issues affecting my community, and I wanted to make a difference through something powerful and simplistic,” she said. “There are a lot of issues that are brushed over or ignored. I wanted to help people see what I see, and help them understand how important it is to listen.”
Young Pine, who writes poetry regularly, also gave credit to her English teacher, Jodie Babki for helping her to find her passion, and develop her poetic skill.
Above: Perry Stein (Indigenous Relations Advisor, City of Lethbridge), Naima Young Pine (1st place winner), Janelle Marietta (Executive Director, United Way)
Since art comes in so many different forms, the partnering organizations of the contest felt it would be a positive and inclusive way to spark conversations about reconciliation beyond the City’s Reconciliation Week in September.
“Arts and culture have a way of tapping into our shared humanity in a way that no other medium can,” said Perry Stein, Indigenous Relations Advisor at the City of Lethbridge. “In its fourth year, this contest continues to offer an accessible, inclusive way for Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), other Indigenous peoples, and non-Indigenous peoples to speak their truths, share their experiences and move our community forward in truth and reconciliation.”
Treena Tallow, one of the co-chairs of the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee echoed the sentiment, and explained that reconciliation is an artistic journey in itself.
“Through art, we have the capacity to build connections, and transform the hearts and minds of communities,” she said. “Education and awareness are key to opening our spirits to these connections. “
When asked what communities and individuals can do in the spirit of reconciliation, Tallow said there are many ways to be involved.
“Reading the Truth and Reconciliation report, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is a good place to start. We can donate to Indigenous-led and focused organizations, or volunteer at one of the many meaningful programs or committees within the city. The most important thing is to start somewhere, and keep going.”
Each of the works submitted to the Expressions of Reconciliation contest will be on display at Casa through the month of December in the south showcase on the main floor.