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Kaskihowin officially unveiled in Arts Building

Posted on 2018-03-26 in Arts & Culture

The mural was officially unveiled in the Arts Building on March 21.

A mural celebrating Indigenous languages was officially unveiled near the bottom of the Arts Building ramp on March 21.

The painting, created by Métis artist April Doepker, is called Kaskihowin, which means “achievement” in the Plains Cree language. The artwork will remain on display on the first floor of the Arts Building—one of the busiest locations on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

Doepker’s Living Language Wall participatory project took shape during Indigenous Achievement Week, held at the U of S from Feb. 5—9, when she created the mural at the top of the Arts Building ramp. Passersby were encouraged to use graffiti paint markers to add words to the canvas related to the achievement theme, choosing from 64 words representing eight Indigenous languages: Inuktitut, Plains Cree, Dene, Dakota/Lakota, Nakota, Michif and Saulteaux.

“We did get a great response and had a lot of people stop by during the week,” said Doepker. “I haven’t counted all the words on the canvas, but it got pretty much all filled up—and it was quite a busy week for me, talking to a lot of the people that were walking by and explaining our project and trying to get them involved.”

Dean Peta Bonham-Smith (left), artist April Doepker (centre) and Dirk de Boer, acting vice-dean Indigenous, pose for a photo at the unveiling of the painting.

Doepker, who was born in La Ronge and raised in Saskatchewan, gained an appreciation for street art while studying fashion design in Montreal. She has more than 15 years of experience doing stencil and graffiti art and mainly uses spray paint.

Doepker currently works at Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming (SCYAP), where she helps other artists showcase their work with the annual We Needi Graffiti art exhibit. She has curated and organized the show for the last 10 years.

The seeds of the Living Language Wall project at the College of Arts & Science were planted after Diana Tegencamp, who was working in the Office of the Dean, attended a Cree language camp. She suggested the idea to Kristina Bidwell, associate dean Aboriginal affairs, who then reached out to Doepker on Facebook. Bidwell and Doepker later met, along with executive assistant Jenn Morgan, to discuss the details.

Bidwell and Morgan also enlisted the help of a team of eight traditional knowledge keepers, language experts and Elders to assist with the word selection: Randy Morin (Plains Cree), Isadore Campbell (Dene), Bob Badger (Saulteaux), Norman Fleury (Michif), Darlene Speidel (Dakota/Lakota), Tim Eashappie Sr. (Nakota) and Bettina Spreng (Inuktitut).

“I would like thank everyone I worked with on this project and met while I was at the university and all the people who helped make it a success,” said Doepker. “I had a great experience.”

A time-lapse video was created to commemorate the creation of the artwork. It can be viewed here.


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