Artist Statement from the recent exhibition Reviving the Indian in the Child at Alternator Gallery
I’m on a healing journey recovering from trauma and separation. I have been creating, reading, thinking and searching for clues to what I am to focus on. I am trying to tune into what it is I’m supposed to know. I feel I am on multiple journeys of discovery within my Indigenous self, my White self and my Blended self. There is an “Otherness” to being half of two politely warring Nations. I cannot escape like my white relations. I cannot step out of it when it gets to be too much. I don’t have that fair hair, fair eyes luxury.
I have accepted that my journey was difficult for a reason. That reason, lead me back into the arms of western education. I’m hoping there is a safer place to explore this creation of Canada that is my bloodlines, place for me to explore my cultural connections through founding fathers and mother tongue. To speak about the restoration of dignity to the wounded half-breed: this Siwash – half indian, half settler – through story. A safer place that will allow me to connect the legends of our people to the global story of our ways not as helpless witness, but as knowledge keepers. I have to build it, to get others to believe it. A construction path my grandmother framed for me.
Like my ancestors would relate life through the animals: I, like a fresh Butterfly, am in the first stage towards a Transformation, a “RE-CLAIMation” of me. I told this story already with Dorothy Christian. I embodied it in her film “a spiritual land claim”. I realize now, I was Dorothy emotionally, spiritually through our common stories. The stories of strong Indigenous women are often the same. Marginalized in community, ignored, labeled, victimized, abandoned. It makes my body radiate as it shifts into high emotional gear. It hurts. This isn’t easy. I’m triggered by a desperate plea from deep within the grey matter that resides in the center of my heart…
’hear me to save you’,
I have my great great grandmothers and grandfathers blood in me. Their gifts are still waiting to be picked up. Out there waiting for me, a real N-sis-oolaxw Dry Creek Education to become Decolonized. I am following in my grandmother’s footsteps as RE-searcher RE-membering and RE-minding others of our existence our contemporary oral histories. Through art the past RE-claims me, connects me back to the earth, the land of my grandmother, the future of my bloodlines. Our history is our future, we carry the memories in our blood. To forget is to force a remembering.
These pieces reflect a place of hurt and a place of healing through art and cultural teaching. They reflect frameworks of healing and destruction polarized through spiritual practice. My grandmother Mary Abel carried both these teachings within her life experiences and passed them on through blood memory. In my grandmothers wise words “A woman can do everything”, and like her I do.
Mariel Belanger is a member of the Syilx Nation from Vernon BC. She is a mother, professional actor, writer, activist, BFA Performance student at UBCO and NAPAT Instructor at the Enowkin Centre.
“Orange Reconciliation” Found Objects Assemblage
“Quilsten Framework” – Metal and Skin