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Confederation students paint Indigenous mural with local artist Michael Cywink

student painting

The Confederation Secondary School cafeteria is now home to an Indigenous mural inspired by the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Students painted the mural under the direction of local Indigenous artist Michael Cywink. The Ontario Arts Council funded the project, which took approximately two weeks to complete.

The idea originated two years ago when students sought new ways to engage in authentic Indigenous experiences. “They wanted to work together to develop a greater understanding for the culture and traditions of Indigenous peoples,” says Confederation Secondary School Principal Marty Punkari. “The end result is a piece of art that will be enjoyed by students and staff for years to come.”

Since 2009, Michael Cywink, an Odawa Anishinabe registered with the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, has been sharing his teachings with students from across the province. Also a curator and published author, Michael creates murals that depict Clans, Dodems (spirit helpers) and the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Bravery (Aakwa’ode’ewin), Honesty (Gwekwaadziwin), Humility (Mnaadendimowin), Love (Zaagidwin), Respect (Dbaadendiziwin), Truth (Debwewin) and Wisdom (Nbwaakaawin).

“Cultural arts projects are important for youth to experience,” says Michael Cywink. “Colour heals and so does art. Our youth need the opportunity to let their creativity guide their growth and healing.”

Students worked alongside Michael to select designs to inspire the mural, for which the theme is “Water is Life.” The mural incorporates many elements of traditional Indigenous art – a thunderbird as the main messenger to the Creator, lightning as communication with all creations, thunder which signifies flapping wings that bring rain water necessary for all life, and the lodge, a healing space meaningful amongst Indigenous peoples.

“I would like to say Miigwech to Michael Cywink for helping our students foster a deeper sense of appreciation for Indigenous art from a First Nations perspective,” says Principal Marty Punkari.

“I am honoured to be a part of this project”, says Michael Cywink. “Students worked together respectively, and in harmony, a true form of Reconciliation.”

He adds: “The mural is a historic accomplishment in their lives that is meant to be shared with others. I hope that this project will remind students that when they work together, they can accomplish something beautiful and meaningful.”

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Media Contact:

Marty Punkari, Principal, Confederation Secondary School,
Rainbow District School Board, 705-671-5948.