#followfriday- 4 Indigenous Muralists
By Rebekah Elkerton
This week we highlight artists who bring magic to the mundane, brightening public spaces and Indigenizing our world one wall at a time. Not only do they inspire us daily with their amazing large scale public art, each of these creators spend significant time sharing their talents and energy with youth and community. Their expansive creativity is seen through the ways each of these artists have developed their talents and skills in multiple forms - creating jewelry, clothing, prints, poetry textiles and more. Throughout their careers, each of these artists have described their work as having been directly influenced by their ancestors. Their powerful pieces awaken viewers, provoke reflection, and share messages of hope and welcoming to all audiences.
Emily Kewageshig is a painter and mural artist. Anishinaabe from Saugeen First Nation, Emily is a mother to a young son who she is proudly raising in a home filled with creativity. Her passion for bringing beauty into the world is unquestionable when one sees her dynamic woodland style paintings. The depth of meaning behind each piece is felt by the viewer, as she creates work reflective of her Indigenous world view. Her work consists of bold lines, bright colors, and traditional Ojibwe woodland symbolism.
Emily’s work captures the interconnection of lifeforms and the vibrancy of the natural world while effectively communicating an inherent spiritual element to the viewer. Her clean lines, beautiful colour pallets and meaningful use of space tell a story of connection and light through each piece. She brings to life every subject she paints, drawing the viewer in. Her extensive collection of pieces is accessible online.
Emily recently teamed up with Manitobah Mukluks, who featured her line-work on their popular Tamarack style mukluk. A major achievement in the Indigenous Fashion world, she is one of only a handful of celebrated artists who’ve designed with the brand. Check out her Manitobah collab here.
Follow Emily on Instagram and check out her website
Cedar Ever is an Anishinaabe artist based in Montreal. Her shapeshifting life forms are uniquely hers, brightly painted and appearing to move through the space they occupy. Depicting many faces connected within one being, Cedar’s eye-catching creations evoke emotion and challenge the viewer with raw emotion.
Beginning her venture into muralling in Peru, her work can now be found in Canada’s major cities. With the goal of welcoming other BIPOC people into urban spaces, Cedar intentionally uses colours that make her happy- noting that colour can be healing. An advocate for healing through creativity, Cedar has not limited herself to painting, in fact there isn’t much she hasn’t tried when it comes to visual art. She attributes her self-awareness about her artistic strengths and weaknesses to having tried the things she was curious about and encourages others to do the same, without fear of failure.
A self-taught beader, Cedar’s beaded Jewelry has been seen on red carpets and in tv shows. Recently, her jewelry collection was part of the Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week market. Her work is often inspired by elements of nature, urban landscapes, her dream-world, and the surreal.
When not muraling, Cedar works with youth in Indigenous communities on artistic projects, nurturing their unique skills and inspirations. She asks students to reflect on their relationships and experiences and supports them through the development of art pieces, of many mediums, to bring their visions to life.
Follow Cedar on Instagram
Charlene Johnny is Coast Salish mural artist from the Quw’utsun Tribes of Duncan, B.C. living and working on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Her colourful large scale designs tell stories of empowerment, harmony and Indigenous joy.
Charlene’s murals have been commissioned by schools throughout British Columbia. During her creation process, she asks Indigenous students to join her in the development and painting of each mural or installation. She offers herself as a creative mentor to students throughout these projects, intentionally opening a space where urban Indigenous youth can access art and connection with their roots. Most recently, Charlene's collaborative mural work became a healing practice through which students could grieve the news about the unmarked graves at Canada’s residential schools. Together they honoured the students who attended the schools, sending an important message of unity and support to the Indigenous community at large.
Having studied silver and copper carving, Charlene is a celebrated jewelry maker. Her fine designs are expressions of ancestral knowledge. Her detailed handmade pieces feature scenes from nature as well as spiritual beings. Her creativity is vast as she also enjoys photography, portrait drawing, and other traditional art forms.
Follow Charlene on Instagram or visit her website.
Mo Thunder is a mixed heritage Oneida, non-binary artist. A muralist and multidisciplinary creator, Mo’s work acts as visual storytelling. Working in mixed media, beading, journaling, poetry and textiles their creative passions are vast. Their fresh style has made waves through social media as innovative contemporary Indigenous design, speaking to younger generations about Indigenous lived experiences and inspiring a new generation of Indigenous artists to find their artistic voice.
Mo Thunder’s murals, both of independently made and collaboratively, are some of the most known and admired Indigenous public art pieces in Toronto. Exploring traditional stories, symbols and connection to land through eye-catching colours and flawless technique, their murals are a must-see. We are grateful that their website has a “Mural Map” page, a handy tool for anyone to find the Mo Thunder piece closest to them.
In recent years Mo has co-created and co-facilitated a community, art and land-based creative expression program for youth Indigenous folks aged 18-30 in T’karonto called Our Stories Our Truths. Through their work Mo aims to express stories about intergenerational growth/healing, neurodiversity, identity, and empowerment.