The Majagalee creation in Kamloops is a wall wonder

Kamloops’ newest mural was unveiled at the Versatile Petro-Canada Travel Center in Kamloops on June 20, National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The artwork greets motorists at 1522 Versatile Dr. in West Kamloops and is a bright and colorful statement by Gitxsan artist Michelle Stoney.

The mural is called Majagalee, which is the word for children/flower in the Gitxsan language. It wraps around two sides of the exterior of the building.

“We wanted to make some of the sites available to Indigenous artists in a variety of ways to tell their stories about their culture, their cultural journey,” said Steve Duke, general manager of wholesale operations and sales for Suncor. “It matters to us, it matters to the people in the communities we operate in and we thought what better way – we have these blank slates across the country that we could make available to Indigenous artists. to tell their story.

Canadian cities now telling their stories with art murals include Kamloops, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

“When we spoke with each artist, we said, ‘Do you have a story to tell us about truth and reconciliation that we can then share on our platforms with Canadians?’” said Lynsey Mason, consultant in brand management at Suncor Petro-Canada.

Mason said each mural is different, but all have the same theme of reconciliation and what that means for the artists.

Mason said the project is less about Suncor and Petro-Canada and much more about the artists’ stories.

“It’s a really special project…to have the opportunity to work personally with Michelle, it’s really touching,” Mason said.

For artist Michelle Stoney, being chosen to create the mural was a welcome opportunity.

Alongside Stoney, as the Tk’emlúps community drummers performed the song of honor, were his aunt and uncle, who had traveled from their home in Hazelton to offer their support.

They, along with other members of Stoney’s own family, had returned home from residential schools.

“It’s really to honor residential school survivors,” Stoney said. “Our history and our culture are still striving, even though they tried to take it away from us.”

After probable unmarked burial sites were identified in Kamloops in 2021, Stoney created the orange Every Child Matters hand sign – a combination of trees, mountains, flowers and feathers.

In this drawing, the mountains and trees represent the Gitxsan Nation, the flowers represent the children, and the feathers represent the children who were lost in residential schools.

Stoney explained that the Majagalee mural in Kamloops is based on his orange hand design incorporating some of the same elements and their meanings.

“I was able to take my previous work and combine it with elements of the orange hand design,” Stoney said.

“I wanted to rework the hand and have something different for people – to show people what I would do if it was colored. The mountain [in the mural] represents the community for me. The cedar represents the children who left, but returned and put down roots where their culture still strives.

Stoney grew up on Gitxsan territory, in Delgamuukw House, and comes from a family of Gitxsan artists. Her grandfather, the late Victor Mowatt, was a master carver and the brother of her grandmother, Earl Muldow, a world-renowned sculptor and jeweller.

Stoney’s accomplishments are substantial in themselves and she works primarily in the realm of acrylic painting and metal sculpture.

Stoney’s unique style is inspired by the traditions of her two distinct First Nations cultures: bold colors with black outlines from her Cree heritage and a form line from her Gitxsan heritage.

In 2012, Stoney graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She received the YVR Art Foundation Award in 2009 and her work was shortlisted for the YVR Banner Contest in 2013.

Stoney is now a full-time artist living in Hazelton, where she runs paint and jewelry studios, runs an Etsy shop, and fulfills commissions across Canada. Stoney collaborates regularly with his brother, photographer Alex Stoney, and together they create prints, a calendar, and public art projects.

When asked what she attributed her success to, Stoney said one of the main reasons was her community.

Stoney said she honors “the trees” in her community, like her uncle, who came home from boarding school.

By carrying on their traditions, Stoney leaves his own mark on First Nations art in British Columbia and across Canada, expanding understanding of its meaning and place in Canadian history.

You can read more about Stoney on his website at michellestoney.comon Facebook at facebook.com/mstoneyart and on Etsy at storeoutetsy.com/ca/shop/Mstoneyart.