‘We’re still here’: How artist Simon Brascoupe asserts an Algonquin presence on the LRT

There’s one message that Algonquin artist Simon Brascoupe needs to ship to travellers passing by Pimisi Station on Ottawa’s LRT line: “We’re still here,” he says. “The Algonquin people are still here.”

Brascoupe’s set up — Màmawi — might be the centrepiece of the Pimisi Station on Ottawa’s Confederation LRT line. The piece consists of greater than 100 painted paddles suspended from the ceiling on a metal canoe-shaped construction. Each paddle is painted by a separate Indigenous artist from the Pikwakanagan First Nation close to Golden Lake, the Algonquins of Ontario and Brascoupe’s own residence, Kitigan Zibi close to Maniwaki.

Màmawi means “together.”

“The idea is that it takes more than one person to paddle a canoe,” stated Brascoupe, 71, who has labored on the mission for greater than three years.

“The secret to public artwork is to know precisely what you need to produce. You must have the idea and the creative imaginative and prescient of what you need to do proper at the very starting. With public artwork, specifically Indigenous or Algonquin artwork, you need public involvement.”


Simon Brascoupe’s artwork set up, Màmawi, is a stylized Algonquin canoe in the Pimisi LRT station. Photo: Simon Brascoupe

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It was clear in the metropolis’s unique request for proposals for LRT artwork that it wished the LRT artwork to inform a narrative. After Brascoupe’s proposal was chosen, he went about discovering artists to contribute, placing out a name for submissions and visiting Algonquin communities in the area. The youngest contributor is six. The oldest is over 90. Some of the elders who created paddles have died earlier than LRT commuters will ever get to see their creations.

“A lot of people would say to me, ‘Oh, I’ve been beading for 60 years but I don’t consider myself an artist’,” Brascoupe stated. “I’d have to say them, ‘Oh yes, you are an artist.’ We had canoe makers, beaders, carvers, clothing makers … each paddle has its own story.”

An accompanying web site, paddles.simonbrascoupe.com, reveals every paddle with a photograph of its creator and the story behind it. Artist Dave Liberty’s paddle reveals an elegant loon, his mom’s clan. Josee Whiteduck’s paddle, Water is Life, was impressed by the water ceremony she performs. Margot Bell’s honours the eagle the landed in the yard of her British Columbia residence the similar day she realized her father had died in Mattawa.

“Each paddle has a different aspect of the history of the Algonquin people on the land,” Brascoupe stated. “Some are about the ceremonies. Some of them have a spiritual aspect.”


More than 100 Algonquin artists contributed hand-painted paddles. Photo: Simon Brascoupe

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Brascoupe has a second set up at Pimisi, an much more private one, that was impressed by his personal life. Standing practically 5 metres tall, a shiny purple, metal moose stands alongside the practice monitor, a tiny chicken perched on its again. It remembers a searching story Bascoupe’s father instructed him.

The elder Brascoupe was moose searching with associates when two Canada Jays, often known as a whisky jack, landed close to by. Whisky jacks typically land on moose, selecting and consuming the grubs they discover residing in the moose hair.


Simon Brascoupe created this moose sculpture based mostly on a searching story his father instructed him. Photo: Simon Brascoupe

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“He told the whisky jacks, ‘Go and bring me a moose’,” Brascoupe stated. “I can tell you, my father wasn’t the most patient man, but the group of them waited there all day and eventually a moose appeared with the whisky jacks on its back.”

The moose theme additionally seems in one other Brascoupe design, the Algonquin wayfinding wheel that might be used all through the LRT system. The image additionally incorporates stylized canoes and the colors purple, white, yellow and black, representing the 4 factors of the compass. The wayfinding wheel might be mounted on boulders in that stations since boulders had been typically used as route finders by First Nation travellers.

The Pimisi Station on LeBreton Flats is called after the Algonquin phrase for eel and is one in all 13 stations in Phase 1 of the Confederation Line. The mission, already greater than a 12 months late, was imagined to have been prepared by the finish of June. The curious can catch a glimpse of Màmawi and the huge purple moose from the Booth Street Bridge.

Rideau Transit Group, the consortium constructing the LRT, has not set a brand new goal date for the LRT opening.


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