Reconciliation starts right here in our neighbourhoods

Stunning new mural expresses healing of most vulnerable in our society

Last month, Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevc and I had the opportunity to carpool between the amazing Garlic Festival and the impressive City Cider Festival. As we passed Wells Hill Park, we stopped to see the stunning new mural painted on the park’s shed and the adjacent wall.

This new five-part mural, entitled “Man’s Walk,” was sponsored by StreetARToronto (StART) Partnership Program and led by artist Paula “Bomba” Gonzalez in collaboration with Na-Me-Res, Sagatay House, and transient men in the community.

Gonzalez is currently the visual arts instructor at Sagatay, a transitional house on Vaughan Road. It offers men the safe and supportive environment needed to move from homelessness to permanent housing.  To me, Na-Me-Res and Sagatay represent a renewed sense of hope for some of our society’s most vulnerable. By re-engaging the residents with their language and culture, the team is turning men’s lives around, one by one. The Anishinaabe meaning of Sagatay roughly translates to “a new beginning” and this is what the house offers to these men. Establishing a secure, personal cultural identity, together, with sense of belonging is now recognized as a best practice in healing and recovery. When Gonzalez was approached by the city to do another mural, she knew she wanted it to be in collaboration with Sagatay.

What followed was a true, communal effort. There was a public consultation in July at the Stop’s Green Barn where members of the community could meet the artist and discuss what they would like to see the mural portray.  During the painting, people were welcome to stop by and visit the artists and hang out in the park. We are also grateful that they persevered through August’s most oppressive heat wave.

The result is “Man’s Walk”— a stunning mural that depicts man’s journey on earth through life, as well as his and earth’s position in the cosmos. On the four walls of the shed, man is shown to be moving through infancy (north-facing wall), adolescence (west) adulthood (south), and then into his role as an elder (east). This wall is opposite a fifth wall, which depicts the cosmos, which man comes from and returns to. Painted by men who have struggled with their place in society, the mural was a chance to express not only their vulnerability, but their healing.

Just south of the park, there is another amazing commemorative initiative at work. The City of Toronto along with Ogimaa Mikana and the Dupont by the Castle Business Improvement Area (BIA), have begun marking street signs with their Anishinaabe name. Ishpadinaa and Gete-Onigaming are now printed above Spadina and Davenport respectively. As we now all recognize, Toronto is located on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of New Credit, the Huron-Wendat and the Haudenosaunee, and it is home to many Indigenous peoples. It is an important step in reconciliation that we, as citizens, are reminded of that in our daily life.

Twice a year, all the elected representatives in Toronto-St. Paul’s come together for a Summit to meet with our constituents to discuss the issues of shared responsibility.

On Nov. 20, (3–5 p.m.) we will be meeting at Holy Rosary Church to discuss ideas for Reconciliation and renewal of an Urban Indigenous Strategy.

We look forward to hearing from Indigenous leaders and all of you as we plan for Canada at 150 and how we, together, can take up the unfinished work of Confederation.

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Posted: Oct 26 2016 12:02 pm
Filed in: Column  VIEWS