Home Arts & Culture Still drawing tales straight from Kanesatake

Still drawing tales straight from Kanesatake

Jasmin Gunn was on hand at a mini powwow at Vanier College on Wednesday to promote her artistic creations, including a new anthology of her weekly comic, “Tales from the Smoke Shack,” now renamed “Rezerved Society.” Marcus Bankuti The Eastern Door

At a recent meeting of Kanesatake’s tourism team, where local artist Jasmin Gunn works, tourism development officer Caira Karihwenhá:wi Nicholas told a story about her grandfather, Marshall Nicholas, from whom she learns a few Kanien’kéha words each week.

When Marshall was praised by his friends for his fluency in three languages, he boasted he actually knew four, counting them off with his fingers. “I speak my language first,” he said, “but I can also speak English, French, tánon kawennáksen (bad words).”

Sound familiar? That might be because the moment was immortalized in Gunn’s comic in The Eastern Door last week, in which a tóta tells his grandchild, “Young one, I can speak four languages: Kanien’kéha, English, French, and most importantly Bullsh*t.”

“I love to tell that story, so I was really honoured when she informed me that she drew a comic inspired by our story,” said Caira, who is also a full-time Ratiwennenhá:wi student. “I have to grab a copy to give to him and show him.”

The homage to real life is no anomaly for Gunn, whose daily life as a Kanehsata’kehró:non has inspired her comic week after week for more than five years. 

“It’s social commentary,” said Gunn. “It’s a lot of stuff from my life, and I build it where maybe it’s more relatable for other people, or some things in there, it’s just living on the territory, that’s the only way you’ll get it. I just try to pull from life and share that.

“Everyone has stories to tell, so I figured you can kind of get a glimpse into the weird stuff or just a different perspective.”

She has now racked up more than 250 editions of “Tales from the Smoke Shack,” which she is renaming “Rezerved Society,” a nod to the fact she no longer works at the store that inspired her first ideas.

Marcus Bankuti The Eastern Door

Gunn announced this week that she has put together a second anthology of the comics, Book Two: Book Book, featuring over 60 editions of her weekly creations.

The collection was featured at her booth this Wednesday at Vanier College’s mini powwow, where Gunn was a vendor. She is also planning another book with every “Tales from the Smoke Shack” comic she’s ever done.

According to her mother, Louise Bonspille, Gunn has always had an artistic streak, even designing a logo for the elementary school when she was a student there.

“She is amazing, and I’m very proud of her,” she said.

Bonspille appreciates the way Gunn draws inspiration, remembering the way the simplest interactions at the cigarette store provided some of the comic’s early plot lines, some of Bonspille’s favourites. “Like when someone would come into the store and ask, ‘Are you open?’ These everyday occurrences, true to life,” she said.

“I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in her new comic strip.”

Bonspille remembers when the opportunity to do a weekly comic for The Eastern Door first came knocking for Gunn.

“I thought ‘this is a perfect fit,’” Bonspille said. “Her ability to see the humor in many situations combined with her talent as a graphic artist: perfect.”

Gunn, who especially likes the surreal Bizarro comic panel, has plenty of familiarity with the format, spending many moments with the Montreal Gazette when she was in high school. 

“I’d have a lot of free time, and I’d spend a lot of time reading. The first thing I’d do is flip to the comics, get a good laugh, and then I’d start reading the newspaper,” she said.

As for the future of her comic, Gunn doesn’t foresee running out of ideas any time soon. “I’m not done as an artist,” she said. “It’ll never be finished. I’m just going to keep collecting them.”

Those interested in picking up a copy of Book Two: Book Book  can get in touch with Gunn directly, she said.

marcus@easterndoor.com

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This article was originally published in print on May 3 in issue 33.18 of The Eastern Door.

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Marcus is a journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.

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Marcus is a journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.