Ojibwe artist works with strangers to create mural at University of Winnipeg

Jessica Canard, an Ojibwe artist from Sagkeeng First Nation, spent Tuesday morning passersby to use handmade wooden block stamps to help her create a piece of art at a Winnipeg university.

Sagkeeng's Jessica Canard is asking passersby to help paint a mural that highlights their connections

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      Turtles, wolves, eagles and pine trees: hand-crafted stamps made of wooden blocks are neatly set out on a table at the University of Winnipeg's environment and science building. 

      Jessica Canard, 26, invites passersby to take a stamp and paint roller and use them to imprint pictures onto eight triangular panels.

      Canard is hosting the live art project, in which she's asking the public to help create the Community Connections mural at the University of Winnipeg. 

      "I find art is a pretty universal thing," Canard said. "It's just about bringing people together from different backgrounds, different social circles, that wouldn't normally get the chance to connect or cross paths."

      The project is funded by the University of Winnipeg and Canada's National Arts Centre. The images selected represent the Seven Sacred Teachings and plant medicine that are significant to Ojibwe, Cree and Métis people who live on Treaty 1 territory, on which Winnipeg sits.

      Canard spent Tuesday morning recruiting participants for the project. By lunchtime, 50 people had left their mark on the panels. 

      The mural represents an opportunity to "decolonize" and reclaim her heritage, she said. 

      "When I was growing up, I didn't see pieces that I could connect to … like, 'Hey, that reminds me of my heritage, ancestry, or my background.' And my diaspora is literally, like, two hours away from here, so I just want to take up space."

      Canard said the finished mural will have 22 panels and cover a total of 64 square feet, or roughly six square metres. It will be unveiled at the university in early spring.