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Indigenous Arts & Stories - Abawaadiziwin, the art of being together

Abawaadiziwin, the art of being together

2016 - Art Winner

Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Vancouver, BC
Wasauksing First Nation
Age 26

Author's Statement

I took the title of this painting from Leanne Simpson’s book “Dancing on our turtle’s back”. She writes “Aabawaadiziwin is a word that means togetherness, or the art of being together; and it means that we must practice good relationships with all living beings around us.”

With this painting I envision a future where people of all cultures within Canada live together peacefully without oppression or discrimination. A future that’s built on love and respect for each and every person within our country.

This is inspired by the seventh fire prophecies of the Ojibway people. The teachings of the seventh prophet say that “New People” will emerge and retrace their steps and reignite the flame of the Anishinaabe people and regenerate our languages, oral cultures and traditions of governance. This is considered the seventh fire. The prophecy also states the light skinned race will have a choice between two roads. If they choose the road of brotherhood it will merge with the seventh fire of the Anishinaabe people and create the eighth and final fire, an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood.

Even though this is for all of Canada I specifically depicted the white male and Anishinaabe woman igniting each others flame because they have been most affected by the history of our country. The white male has benefited considerably from colonization practices and has caused considerable harm to indigenous peoples. Anishinaabe women live with a great pain brought on by genocide, residential schools and high rates of missing and murdered Anishinaabe woman in Canada. These woman have the most to teach our country and they will be the leaders of the future. We need to listen to their lessons of compassion, humility and vulnerability to light the eighth fire.

In an Ojibway story the crow finds that his purpose is to help others. That helping others brings him happiness and inner peace. The spirit of the crow will guide the way for all of Canada. We need to go through a transformation of consciousness from the individual mindset to seeing each other as brothers and sisters. By loving our neighbours as we love ourselves. By learning the art of being together.

Meegwetch, thank you.