Kiera-Daw Kolson at a press conference for Neil Young's Honour the Treaties Tour spoke on youth perspectives on honouring treaties in the face of oilsands development. photo credit Doug Thomas honorthetreaties.org

 

A\J: How do you describe yourself as an artist?

Kiera-Dawn Kolson: I believe that art is a powerful tool, it can transcend somewhat confrontational issues through non-confrontational means to educate, empower and engage everyone affected directly and indirectly. I’ve always had a passion for creativity and am a multidisciplinary artist. I love interactive installation pieces, music, poetry, writing, painting, beading, photography and other approaches as well. I am a graduate of the NAPAT-National Aboriginal Professional Artist Training Program at the En’Owkin Indigenous Center for the arts.

 

How do you use your art to express your spirituality? 

KK: Upon reflecting on the various religious opportunities and researching the history behind many, I humbly choose to be more spiritual than religious, focusing on Indigenous spirituality and elders’ teachings as my initial mentored approach, and I support others’ freedom of choice behind what they believe. 

Spirituality to me means interconnectedness with something beyond the self and respecting all else while we are present on this Earth. In the medicine wheel teachings we recognize that when everything is in harmony it is within the circle as an equal, but when these harmonies are disrupted this spiritual harmony is unequal and it reflects on how humans, animals, plants, and ourselves are being treated and the quality of life we are accepting. 

"Just because we come from a small place doesn't mean that our expectations for ourselves have to be small - anything is possible, but that development for greatness begins within yourself."

What compels you to focus on nature in your art? 

KK: Most of my paintings are abstract land pieces, my beading generally focuses on various flowers and I enjoy utilizing traditional hide, bone, shell and at times stone in my pieces to ensure that people can recognize that these are authentic and not your average piece. I use these traditional tools because it is how my ancestors would have done things and I try to honour their values but also honour my own. 

To be able to reflect the true honest beauty that is my home through my art, music and jewelry means that I have the chance to honour the teachings that were passed down and create a space where this value system can be embraced through contemporary methods of traditional teachings. 

 

What role does hope play in your art? 

KK: Hope is important. With such a high rate of suicide and various other social issues in Arctic communities, hope is a powerful message. I hope to educate, empower and engage others through my facilitation, music, art, poetry, stories and other artistic expressions. My greater goal is to establish a charitable foundation to bring youth and elders together through arts and culture – to empower our communities and provide them with healthy tools and heritage for harm reduction.

They say that art is a universal language and thus hope is embedded in the potential that art can provide throughout its various disciplines. Just because we come from a small place it doesn’t mean that our expectations for ourselves have to be small. Anything is possible, but that development for greatness begins within yourself.

 

Stephen Bede Scharper, a columnist for the Toronto Star, is an associate professor with the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. He is author of Redeeming the Time: A Political Theology of the Environment and co-editor of The Natural City: Re-Envisioning the Built Environment.

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