CNE celebrates Canada's Indigenous people with commission of Unity Pole
Ojibway artist Kris Nahrgang hand carved the pole out of white cedar tree
The opening ceremony for Toronto's annual Canadian National Exhibition is just days away and this year a new work of art will make its debut on the grounds to celebrate the contributions of Canada's indigenous people.
CBC Toronto got a preview on Wednesday of the Unity Pole, created by Ojibway artist Kris Nahrgang.
Nahrgang hand carved the pole from a white cedar tree from the Peterborough area and it includes indigenous carvings and universal symbols.
Nahrgang chose a turtle as the base of the pole, which he says from the base to the top is more than nine metres tall.
"In our culture Mother Earth is a turtle's back. In one of the creation stories the earth is re-built on the back of the turtle, so I wanted something strong for the pole to stand on," Nahrgang explained.
The next animal on the pole is a bear, which Nahrgang says represents family and unity.
A drum is carved on the bear.
"It represents the heartbeat of our mothers and Mother Earth and our country,"
He painted it four colours: black, white, yellow and red.
"Representing the four colours of people: red man, yellow man, white man, black man. We are all here and all one people," said Nahrgang.
An otter, loon, fish and a wolf are also carved into the pole.
"[Wolf] represents the cry of the people, the cry of humans, the cry of the animals to try and change the things that are happening in our world," said Nahrgang.
Nahrgang also included a beaver and maple leaves, which are some of Canada's national symbols.
He also decided to include a white feather closer to the top of the pole.
"It's to represent the healing of the pole, the healing of the people and the healing of all of our nations," said Nahrgang
An eagle is at the top of the pole.
"The eagle flies above us and stands between the real world and the creator and speaks to the creator and tells him how we are doing," explained Nahrgang.
He started the project in January and worked seven days a week to complete it by the second week of June.
"I'm hoping that something the size of this makes people think and wonder and ask more questions and try to get more into the Indigenous people."
The CNE officially opens on Friday.