In some Indigenous cultures, the days leading up to the December 21 Winter Solstice is a time of storytelling.
“It’s a season of change, when the autumn harvest makes way for the period when elders gather the children and share knowledge,” said Emily Akikodjiwan Brascoupé-Hoefler, an Algonquin Anishinabe artist from the community of Kitigan Zibi north of Ottawa. “Around this time, when I was little, I remember my father and grandfather telling me many stories.”
Pangawogo Ninga Akì, meaning Heartbeat of Mother Earth in Anishinaabemowin, a stunning mixed-media artwork created by Emily, is full of those stories. The piece – which the artist completed around the time of the Winter Solstice last year – acknowledges the land, the waters, the sky and the Algonquin People who have lived on this land (where the National Arts Centre is located) since time immemorial.
The work, located inside the National Arts Centre’s Canal lobby, serves as a permanent visual land acknowledgement, a welcome from the Algonquin People to all NAC visitors.
And now, a digital version of Heartbeat of Mother Earth is also on display on the Centre’s five-storey Kipnes Lantern.
Walk gently on the land
As anxiety continues to rise about the fate of our planet due to climate change and ongoing conflicts, Heartbeat of Mother Earth offers an opportunity to reflect on the importance of walking gently on the land – taking good care of the land, – maintaining the balance between all things and respecting one another.
“The artwork includes traditional sky and land teachings taught to me by my father and grandfather, two of the first people to take me onto the land,” said Emily, who also created the work based on the wisdom of Elders Claudette Commanda, Annie Smith Saint-Georges, Albert Dumont and Pinock Smith.
Their collective teachings are woven into every aspect of the artwork.
The drum: the heartbeat
The round shape of the canvas represents the drum, the heartbeat of mother earth and a way to welcome people to the land. The octagonal outline within the circle signifies the four directions. Each direction has a grandmother and grandfather making eight parts.
Each canvas is split into four panels to represent the body, mind, heart and spirit of all people.
The eyes represent “two-eyed seeing” and welcomes people from every corner of the world to the land and the National Arts Centre. One eye is painted in shades of brown and red, while the other is in shades of blue and green, so that everyone can see themselves. Everyone has a place in the circle.
Algonquin People used the bark from the white birch tree to make baskets and canoes, and to design patterns by birch-bark biting. White birch trees grow all around the Ottawa area. They represent our collective memory and the way we pass down traditions from one generation to the next.
Heart: the sacred falls
Akikodjiwan, the sacred falls near LeBreton Flats, is the waterway that continues to bring families, communities and people together in what we now call Ottawa. Water, a sacred gift to all creatures that inhabit our earth and sustains us.
“Water is life,” says Emily. “Algonquins live on the waterways and have travelled on them since time immemorial. Elder Albert Dumont says that ‘the falls are where we learned to sing!”
Spirit: celestial bodies
The artwork includes traditional sky and land teachings taught to me by my father and grandfather, two of the first people to take me onto the land. The sky includes teachings and stories depicting celestial bodies: the story of the bear and the three brothers, the North star that guides us, the little bear, the great loon and the crane.
The Algonquin People
Finally, Emily says Heartbeat of Mother Earth reminds us that the Algonquin People – and their strength and their pride – are very much still here.
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About the artist
Emily Akikodjiwan Brascoupé-Hoefler is a mixed media artist and educator who creates pieces of art inspired by teachings from her family and community, and by her experiences on the land. Through the process of reclaiming lost art practices and traditions, she is weaving new cultural understanding and healing into her work.
Video transcript in Anishinaabemowin
Emily Brascoupé-Hoffler ndizhnikaaz. Kitigan Zibi ndooonjibaa. Makwa nindoodem. Kwe.
Emily Brascoupe-Hoffler nidishnikaz. Kitigan Zibi nipi odjiba Makwa nidodem ni kagi kijendiman, ki djodjominan odeh hen (Heartbeat of Mother Earth) Kidja wabidjigadeg aki eh-ija kendagog National Arts Centre pinigodj kida ateh.
Nakotcigadeh wendi odja Anishnabeg pemadizidjig. Kawin nigotsinon kakina awiyeg odja, oma aki kag. Kina gotc kegon ka wabidamin okowi kag, aki kag ka wabidimowin, nibi kag kapi odjibamigig, mamowi wiyo kak. Kina kinowet odjidjiyon adi kapi odisewig, anejigabowitc kida anishnabeminan, agonen ka tibenimigowin, agonen ka kenimigowik. Nin odja, mi wendi ka madjiyabiksak mamowi niwikodendan odja pepejik awiyeg keh wabidig.
Pibon pitcha kijigig kitcha gwenatc wedi kakina awiyeg odja ozam ninigidanana pejig minigig eh-ija nigoboniyonig ki pidigehman eh madjishkamigin kodig atzokehwin. Nimikowinan kapi nitowgiyan wendi eh ija kijigag, ni-tada. mamowi ni kokomis actic ni moshomis, kigi nita atisokagonan atisokan kawi nodimag mi apiyedj ka kinamogowak actic kidja mamdinabidimag kegon. Nigi sakiton tedigo nogom nigishton kidja atisokog ninijanishig nogom odiyanawa kidja nodimowadj weni atsokani ni dadamikag, kidja atsokeyan kenin apitc odimininanog pibonik.
Miwedi pejig kawi todiman mamowi kidjodjominan ode-hen (Heartbeat of Mother) Aki win odja kidja wabidjigadek eh-ijanagok. Kitcha gwenatc gotc agwendik odiki kidja kendagonig miwendi kagi odja asigowin eh-odjibawin. Mi-dish pekadj eh-odja mosewin oma aki kag, maneh oma kegon ikadomigan kendimowin, apitc ka kweksemigig oma okitkimik kina kegon adi minigig ka kweksemigig nogom ka wabidimik eh-ijiyebig. nigi inendan nidiyan kenin kidja ija kinendiman aki, kidja kopiyodimam aki. Kakina awiyeg oma ahbi, actic kitcha gwenatc wedi kidja kendamik kidja kinenimidik mamowi ka ija odjibaw ik. Panima acitc kiga kinendananan aki wewenit. Mihi kegi ijanagogiban awiyek pehkadj mosetc aki kak oma nash ka ija tijikewin mamowi kakina kegon ka ija wakanibik mihi kakina eh-ija tcinemidiyik.
Kijigabidimin kigitca kidjodjominan odeh-hen nijin eh-ija wawiyak tigon nigasimonigan eh ija nisistagok yedi nigasmonigan, mihi awedi tewegan, kotadendagozi awedi tewegan ki nigimowagemin actic kida atsokagemin mamowi, Nin dish odja, actidj eh tcodjowiyan, kigi kendananan nitim kinidjanish ka nodik nitawagitc ki-wiyo kak Odeh-hen eh tiniyewodimdjan, odeh-yan. Apitc dish sagak djidji, kiwabimah minendik, apitc nodowadjan teweginan, teshigotc ako nimiyok nijanishik. Mi apitc eh kendimiyan nin nimiskweni ka majigwiyonik odeh kak. Tewegan awedi ka tiniyodik. Mi yendi kawi nidewendiman miskwi madiziwin, pijehi kiyo kak ka tinitomigak. konigeh gotc kidja asaginitc odeh oma ojibigina kak.
Kigitcha Kidjodjominan odeh-hen kegon wendi ikadomigan nin odja kidja ojitowan. Nin eh-inendiman odja nin eh-ija ikweyowan, nimamadinendan nibi eh-ijanagog. Madiziyon o nibi. Kakina ima kegon odapikesin. Kakina awiyek ima odapikeshin. Weshodi ishkwiyak, agwamishi wapishkiyeh, Anishnabeg kipi pabamkojiyeh kakina sibi kak kidja ijawatc tibi wa ijawatc. Actic nidinendan kiyabitc nigoshkidadiyok oma, NAC ka ijinkadeg.
Nigi tci minendan eh-gi widjo-odimtamik newin kehtehyak. Pejik wedi atsokan kehtehya Albert Dumont kagi atsokojidj yendi Akikodjiwan Falls, mihi ima nitim ka kinamagowak kidja nigimowak. Nigi nodowanan sibi eh tiniyodik, nigi pijamin oma, nigi kishkitonanan kidja nigimowak. Actic dish nigimowin tedigo kitcha gwenatc wi atisokewin atsokan. Tedigo actic maneyok oma nigimowinik NAC, actic nigi inendan eh-kitcha minowashik kidja widjidiyemitc awiyek.
Tigon oma kodigin kegonon ka agashinojak ka ikidomigak kegon nin odja. Kitchi amik atsokan didada nita atsokeh. Miyeh pejik ka sakitowan eh-nodiman, actic tedigo ozaktonawa nijanshik eh-nodimowatc yeni atsokani. Actic got nijin amo atsokan. Yendok nijin amo nikwisis omiyodon nozowini ozam tedigo ozaktonawa nopimik actic osagiyawan mindjoshin. Mihi eh-odja gi asik oma Nigi kitchi nidendan kegon kidja mikowasidimagowan apitc wabidiman.