There’d been a storage container sitting in the parking lot at Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) for some time now – plain and orange. But now, it has turned into a remembrance piece for Orange Shirt Day.
As their first undertaking, KSCS’s art committee decided to beautify the container in time for September 30.
“Orange Shirt Day is such an important day for the community and Truth and Reconciliation is such an important thing for us as a community service organization as well. So we really wanted to have this message in a place that was so visible to the whole community and for it to move everyone,” said KSCS communications liaison Brooklyn Joseph, who oversaw the project.
The idea was to cover all sides of the container – the top and sides, too – to serve as a landmark and give an opportunity for optimal aerial shots.
“This was actually a wholesome project for me to take on considering that I do come from a people that were affected by this. I feel like it’s something that is very real to me and my family. And so to be able to carry out this project, I felt it was bridging the gap,” said Iohseròn:tie Rice, the artist commissioned for the project.
“I decided I would try to encapsulate all the most iconic imagery to represent Orange Shirt Day to just really get the message across,” he said.
The artwork includes handprints, a small one juxtaposed with a larger one which is meant to represent the unity of the family, Rice explained.
The child’s face and the orange shirt are the key symbols that anchor the meaning of the message behind the artwork.
“Everything in the images is in upward motion, so we’re just trying to be uplifting, it’s kind of like a representation of perseverance,” he said.
Every Child Matters is written at the top of the container, and Akwé:kon ratiksa’okòn:’a ratiia’tanó:ron is written on the side.
After some back and forth with the art committee, Rice got the green light for the final design. From there on, he made it a priority to use every opportunity he had to advance the project. And sure enough, he got it done well within the allotted time frame.
“He just did it super fast. People were surprised by how there was nothing there, and then they came the next day and there was a huge art piece there,” said Joseph. “He really exceeded our expectations.”
The art committee found that his experience in spray painting was an asset for this project, as well as his ability to work on large scale projects.
“He just happened to be very experienced in doing art on that type of corrugated metal,” said Joseph, who is one of the six people sitting on KSCS’s art committee.
Aside from spray-painting, Rice also paints with acrylics and enjoys working with an airbrush. He first took an interest in art as a child through his tóta and aunties who he’d often see do tole paintings.
“That was influential for me, to see the projects that they carried out,” he said.
For this particular project, the meaning resonated with Rice, too. And he hopes it will entice passersby to reflect on both the past and the future.
“I think this is a representation of perseverance, that sometimes the past is not so pretty, but there’s always brighter days ahead,” said Rice.
KSCS plans on commissioning artists from upcoming projects and is open to artists working with any mediums. Both Rice and Joseph encourage artists to keep an eye out on KSCS’s social media and to submit their work to callouts for future projects.