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Aaniin Community Centre Mural - Niizhwaaswi Gagiikwewin

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Title: Niizhwaaswi Gagiikwewin / Seven Grandfather Teachings

Teaching: Seven Grandfather Teachings

Consulting Indigenous Artist: Tessa Shank, Anishinaabekwe Artist

Educators: Shane Clodd, Sandra Liau and Priscilla Li Kam Cheung

Participating Schools: Unionville High School (upper mural) and Middlefield Collegiate Institute (lower mural)

Coordination:  City of Markham

Materials: Powder Coated, Laser Cut Aluminum

Location: 5665 14th Ave, Markham, ON

Installation Date: June 2018

Fabricator: Steel Art Signs​

Visual Art students from Unionville and Middlefield high schools collaborated with Anishinaabe artist and Ontario College of Art and Design University graduate, Tessa Shank, on two laser cut aluminum murals for the Aaniin Community Centre.  The students were led by Shane Clodd and Sandra Liau, the Visual Arts Department Heads at Unionville and Middlefield. The project was commissioned by the City of Markham’s Recreation Services Department.

The installations in the Aaniin Community Centre are beautiful narratives expressing the Anishinaabeg (Ojibway) interpretation of Niizhwaaswi Gagiikwewin; The Seven Grandfather Teachings.  These are the guiding principles commonly used as moral stepping-stones and act as the foundation central to finding balance in both spirit and community. These teachings remind all who gather here that working towards a happy and healthy self will make for a stronger community.

Traditionally, each teaching is depicted as an animal which represents the qualities of the teaching: Respect as the Buffalo, Wisdom as the Beaver, Humility as the Wolf, Honesty as the Raven, Courage as the Bear, Love as the Eagle and Truth as the Turtle.  Patterns of sevens and fours are repeated throughout the murals to emphasize and represent the Seven Grandfather Teachings, as well as the Four Direction Teachings.

The upper mural depicts The Seven Grandfather Teachings intertwined within the Earth and Sky realms, surrounding two large Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds are known to be messengers from the Creator and are associated with positive natural forces, reminding us of the sacred relationship we have to the Divine.

The lower panel is an underwater narrative representative of the spirit realm which is central to a large turtle.  This Turtle is a reminder of the story of creation and our spiritual connection to the Earth. The Turtle also embodies the virtues of Truth, which is grounded in the understanding that each and every one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings act together as one cohesive and whole truth.

The representation of the Thunderbird and Turtle communicates the duality within the universe and the connection between spirit and the natural world. Through the wisdom of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, these powerful forces can be held in harmony to bring peace and balance within ourselves and our communities.  The Seven Grandfather Teachings remind us not only to nourish the well-being of self, but to strengthen the community as a whole.


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