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Office of Aboriginal Initiatives
Laurier showcases Aboriginal education with art gallery exhibit
Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
May 3/12| For Immediate Release
Kristiina Montero, Assistant Professor
Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications & Public Affairs
WATERLOO – Wilfrid Laurier University education students, Elder Rene Meshake and Hamilton-area Aboriginal high school students will present their visual and literary art for an exhibit titled “Songide’ewin: Aboriginal Narratives,” from May 22 to May 31 at the Robert Langen Art Gallery on Laurier’s Waterloo campus.
Songide’ewin, an Ojibwe word meaning “strength of the heart,” is a collaboration between Kristiina Montero, assistant professor in Laurier’s Faculty of Education, and Meshake, Ojibwe artist and author. They brought together and mentored high school students from Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School in Hamilton and students of Laurier’s Bachelor of Education program to explore Aboriginal teachings and worldviews through painting and dialogue.
“I wanted to help pre-service teachers understand more about Indigenous education,” said Montero. “Faculties across Canada are mandated to bring Indigenous education into our curriculum and to our students, but there is a lack of awareness among teachers of the particular learning styles of Aboriginal students.”
Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School has courses geared toward Aboriginal teachings, such as Aboriginal English and Native arts and culture. For three weeks, five Laurier pre-service teachers joined high school students in an arts class led by Meshake. Then students from the school’s Aboriginal English class wrote responses to the paintings.
Both the paintings and responses – in the form of poetry and prose – will be shown alongside paintings from Meshake’s “Truth and Reconciliation” exhibit. “Initially, I was painting on my own, but the students enhanced the project,” said Meshake. “Working with them in the school made reconciliation even more profound.”
Visitors to the gallery may also participate in the program by displaying their own written responses to the paintings in the gallery.
“I see it as an opportunity to forge an authentic dialogue between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities,” said Montero. “We need to create this dialogue so that teachers have real cross-cultural experiences to share when they begin teaching themselves. It’s also an opportunity for Aboriginal youth to be seen and heard; to be validated in the public sphere.”
Media are invited to attend the exhibit’s opening reception May 22 at 10:30 a.m. The reception will feature a talk about the exhibit, a traditional smudging ceremony and a performance by Minaade sin Aankote (Blue Stone Cloud), a drumming group from the high school. The high school students and Laurier students who participated in the program will be in attendance. Please contact Montero at 519-884-0710 ext. 3571 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange interviews.
The Robert Langen Art Gallery is open Tuesday–Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.