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Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation youth and elders come together to create Little Eagles

The Little Eagles artwork was unveiled at the Paqtnkek Health Centre Oct. 9. Pictured are those who worked with youth from the community on the project as well as some Paqtnkek band council members who broke from their nearby meeting to observe the unveiling.
The Little Eagles artwork was unveiled at the Paqtnkek Health Centre Oct. 9. Pictured are those who worked with youth from the community on the project as well as some Paqtnkek band council members who broke from their nearby meeting to observe the unveiling. - Richard MacKenzie

Artwork hangs prominently at community's health centre

Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation, N.S. - Little Eagles has landed prominently in the waiting room of the Paqtnkek Health Centre.

That is, the 3 x 9 foot sculpted and painted artwork titled Little Eagles - after the project and group which fueled its creation - which was unveiled during an afternoon ceremony Oct. 9.

A passage provided during the ceremony outlined the structure and the objectives of the project.

“Little Eagles is a project that celebrates local cultural symbols and builds awareness and capacity in contemporary art for Mi'kmaw youth, aged 9 to 13 years old,” it reads.

“Through weekly meetings, the Little Eagles will work on a variety of arts projects and meet with local elders. These meetings, in turn, will then guide a relief-sculpture project collaboration between the Mi'kmaq youth group at the Paqtnkek Health Centre, and the ASAP (All-of-Us-Society-for-Art-Presentation) artist-run centre.

“Project leaders Amberlee Boulton and Mike Taylor will facilitate youth meeting with elders, local storytellers and artists Fenn Martin and Alan Syliboy to create a permanent multimedia paint and ceramic relief sculptural installation for Paqtnkek Health Centre.”

Boulton and Taylor were part of the unveiling ceremony which included Paqtnkek band council members taking a break from their nearby meeting to see the curtain being pulled back on the detailed artwork.

“It started with the Thundertales youth group and just seeing how engaged the kids were with doing art and how much they enjoyed telling stories through it,” Boulton said of the origins of Little Eagles and the artwork.

She noted the youth were especially engaged when Martin introduced them to creating with clay and three dimensional work.

An up close look at the eagle artwork, the centerpiece of the 3-D mural.
An up close look at the eagle artwork, the centerpiece of the 3-D mural.

“We chatted and said we need to do more of this,” she said. “And wouldn’t it be great to see what they could do with an eagle and have something permanent.”

Taylor said it was a natural progression to have local elders join them for the sessions to share stories.

“We don’t have too many stories with the elders and youth together; this way, people can understand their stories,” Taylor said, gesturing towards the artwork.

“We would meet, fool around with the clay and, after a while, we said this is our time to do a real one [piece of art]. We started with the eagle first and then did everything else, little by little, and, finally, it all came together.

“It was a great project; the elders and the kids really enjoyed themselves.”

Pointed out a couple of times during the ceremony was an image of a beaver wearing a hard hat which was a suggestion by one of the youth in the group. The hard hat represents current construction on the highway interchange project near Paqtnkek, and the community’s future prospect because of that work. 

Taylor noted the youth would ask great questions which the elders were happy to answer in the form of storytelling.

“They were just having fun together.”

Adding to the artistic side of things was the inclusion, for a few sessions, of folks from L’Arche Antigonish’s art program Hearts and Hands and famed Mi’kmaw artist Syliboy from Millbrook First Nation.

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“It was like a whole community coming together,” Taylor said, noting the health centre seemed an ideal spot to display the finished worked because it represented the origins of the project while also providing great exposure.

“This is where we met all the time, the health centre,” he said. “This is where all the kids came and, now, they’ll see it, enjoy it and they’ll be surprised seeing some of their work too.”

Boulton said it’s something which participants can always take great pride in.

“How proud they are for being Mi’kmaw and of their community; we wanted something which would represent that and make people feel wellness and joy,” she said.  

  

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