Aboriginal Artists! Basket holders of keeping their Culture and Language Alive!
Natalie Sappier, Aboriginal Outreach Officer
Just after completing my Grad Studies at the College of Craft and Design in the late summer of 2013, I started the position of artsnb Aboriginal Outreach Officer. As an Aboriginal Outreach Officer my mission was to seek and help the Aboriginal Artists in the Province and to share the programs offered by artsnb and other grant funding and provide assistance with grant writing by giving workshops with in the First Nation communities. Wolastoq, Mi`kmaq and Passamaquoddy`s rich culture are the first art forms of this Province but is mostly shared within the First Nation communities and there is a high curiosity not only within this Province but around the world on the Traditional and Contemporary art practices of the First Nation People of this Province.
I am an Aboriginal Artist and I have been practicing my art for the past 11 years. I was raised in a Tobique First Nation Community all my life. It is my home and where I get most of my inspiration and I give much credit to where I am today by the great support from my Community.
When I started traveling around the Province to First Nation Communities giving artsnb workshops. I have realized that the same things that is happening in my community happening in every other community.
They tell me:
1. I make crafts because it’s fun.
2. I make crafts because it brings some bread and butter in my household.
3. I make crafts because it makes the people in my community happy.
4. I make crafts because it connects me who I am as an Aboriginal Person.
5. I make crafts, but I don’t consider myself as a professional artist.
I found that most of the artists do not even consider themselves as an artist and are not even close to being comfortable with saying they are an artist. They don’t even realize the amazing technical work that they are creating and selling it for pennies! Most of all they don’t realize the role they play within their community and how they are keeping our culture, our history and language alive. Most artists are taught by people within the community so they think that since they have no institutional training that they are unable to grasp on any opportunities such as a grants and exhibiting. WRONG! Mentorship is just as strong as institutional training, especially in the world of Aboriginal Traditional Fine Craft which most teachers are living in the First Nation Communities.
Did I mention that I just came back from my first Aboriginal Curatorial Collective Colloquium held in Montreal! Iakwe’:iahre We Remember Colloquium was a very heart, mind and spirit awakening experience for me. Many wonderful panels that discussed such as the Legacy of Aboriginal Arts, Oral History, Wampum Belts and From the Barricades: Oka. The colloquium had various exhibitions and think tank discussions and also a live performance which included Traditional Regalia which was lifted right out of Exhibition display boxes leaving me with goose bumps as I felt the ancestry of our First Nation People dance around the room.
Being an Aboriginal Outreach Officer has been a rewarding and positive experience. I enjoy working and helping the Aboriginal Artists in any way that I can. So if you are an Aboriginal Artist and you are looking for some assistance or just want to chit chat and talk about some of your amazing ideas give me a call, email me or just stop by the office. I can make some tea!