Tuesday 8 August 2017

First Nations artist James Simon Mishibinijima’s Residential School Paintings

·     .
Important Stories Being Told at PAMA as part of Peel 150

James Simon Mishibinijima
As part of the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) Peel 150: Stories of Canada exhibition, First Nations artist James Simon Mishibinijima’s work is woven through the timeline showcasing two powerful series: his Residential School Paintings and Seven Grandfather Teachings. PAMA is offering free admission all summer (until Aug. 31) in celebration of Peel and Canada 150.

Born in 1954 in on Manitoulin Island, James Simon Mishibinijima grew up in Wikwemikong, one of the few Unceded Territories in Canada. Never the subject of a treaty, Wikwemikong has been able to preserve some of its pre-Columbian First Nations characteristics. 
Mishibinijima means “Birchbark Silver Shield.” As a boy, Mishibinijima was given the name James Alexander Simon by missionaries who found his name difficult to pronounce. His path as an artist was set early on as he was growing up in Wikwemikong. In some ways he feels that his destiny in art found him, pulling him in an unexpected direction away from an inclination to become an RCMP officer and toward a life as a professional artist.
Among his early teachers was Francis Kagige, an artist and neighbour, and recognized as one of the important pioneers of Wikwemikong art. Kagige had one of the few painting studios in the community. Mishibinijima would frequently visit his elder there where he was given his earliest instructions in painting and some lessons about style. Kagige also shared teachings about their Ojibwe culture and told the young artist his stories. The community’s elders and Mishibinijima’s relatives also imparted oral histories and described the myths and legends that are part of his cultural heritage.
Over the course of his career, he developed two signature styles. One is known as his “mountain paintings.” A dominant characteristic of these paintings is the blending of the land and the human elements to create images of energies that the land generously provides to all who seek it as sustenance.
A second personal style adapts the style of ancient pictographic paintings. Just as the painted petroglyphs make use of mysterious visual symbolism referencing human forms and translating radiant energies in pictorial terms, so Mishibinijima found in their spare human-like symbols potent signs with which to set down his, his family’s, and his community’s stories.
The paintings comprising the current exhibition at PAMA entitled “Indian Residential School Paintings” tell – illustrate – Mishibinijima’s mother’s stories as she gave them to him and as they revealed themselves to him in dreams. Her stories are depicted as pictographs.
 They recount her experiences when, as a young Ojibwe woman, she was a student in the middle years of the twentieth century at the Spanish Indian Residential School situated on the northern banks of Georgian Bay.
Mishibinijima’s mother passed on her stories to him later in her adult life, over the course of perhaps a decade and a half. By giving her stories to her son, she exhorted him to “paint them.”i By sharing such shocking details from her life as a young adult, it was her hope that the truths of “what happened” would live on into the future, beyond her own life. 
The paintings’ deceptively simple style provides the maximum opportunities for someone experiencing his paintings, particularly children and young adults, to reflect on this tragic chapter in our nation’s history and to understand the pain and trauma that people their own age experienced. His paintings are intended to open dialogues about personal and community values, and about the need to confront the truth.

PAMA is a place to explore and learn about Peel Region’s culture and heritage, as well as use conversation, questions and stories to help make new and fascinating connections to the surrounding community. Throughout the year, PAMA offers a variety of workshops and programs for all ages, families and adults. With so many different programs to choose from, PAMA has something for everyone. Operated by the Region of Peel, PAMA is located at 9 Wellington St. E. in Brampton. Visit pama.peelregion.ca to learn more.

Contact: Erin Fernandes 
Marketing Co-ordinator 
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and
Tel: 905-791-4055, ext. 7596 
Cell: 416-312-3425 
Twitter: @visitpama 

Stephen Weir 
Stephen Weir and Associates 
Tel: 416-489-5868 | cell: 416-801-3101 
www.stephenweir.com twitter: