Home Arts & Culture Carving out space for dialogue in the city  

Carving out space for dialogue in the city  

Artists MC Snow and Kyra Revenko collaborated on the ‘Our ways: Peel Trail’ project, which has been seven years in the making. Nanor Froundjian The Eastern Door

The Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen – the words before all else – is anchored in Kanien’kehá:ka tradition and ceremony, while also standing as an affirmation of values and principles guiding the way of life. 

Now, it’s become the focal concept that inspired the bronze sculpture installations on Peel Street, a project created in an effort to recognize the Indigenous history and culture of the land by representing dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

“We’re not going anywhere, we have to work together, and let’s make this a good thing,” said Kahnawa’kehró:non artist MC Snow.

“It’s about the importance of discovering the past and holding on to it and memorializing certain things so that we don’t forget about the past, to give it to give ourselves a place to read, and to talk about these things in a safe space,” said Snow, who worked alongside Montreal-based artist Kyra Revenko. 

Titled Our Ways, the project’s inception resulted from the discovery of remnants from a Haudenosaunee village dating back to the 14th century which were uncovered during construction work on Sherbrooke and Peel streets in 2016. Vast amounts of architectural remains, including evidence of longhouses and a sea of pottery pieces, were among the findings.

The trail spans 2.5 KM, from Pine Ave. all the way down to Smith Street, punctuated with 11 stations, where two spherical sculptures are facing one another, and double as urban seating.

“It’s a project built on dialogue,” said Aurélie Arnaud, senior advisor for intergovernmental relations office for the City of Montreal. She added the sculptures demonstrate both artists’ visions in interaction on different themes tied into the words before all else – putting forth the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous perspectives.

Throughout the project, Snow revisited and re-learned certain concepts of the Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen through sit-downs with Kahnawa’kehró:non elders who shared their stories. 

“It’s really great to be able to do that and to bring it to an actual art piece in the city,” he said. 

Oral and written tradition; balance and equilibrium; and creation; spirituality; and marine life, were among the concepts encapsulated throughout the stations with relevant symbols, notions, and characters carved into each sphere.

The wampum belt is represented on Snow’s sculpture at the installation centered on the theme of justice, located across McGill’s faculty of Law and reminds of the importance of being united on a path. 

On her end, Revenko’s sculpture also told a story through intricate details. 

“There are several symbols placed on this sphere to indicate that perhaps justice may not be so fair,” she said. 

The modelling of the sculptures into their actual size, adapted from the maquettes, took about two years to complete, for 21 spheres. 

The idea to add a cultural aspect to the streetscaping elements was borne from conversation with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, which collaborated on the project. 

“That’s what brought us to work with artists in a very atypical format, and to invite them to think with us about how our worldviews differ, and where they meet, and what kind of dialogue and discussion we can have between those worldviews. Also, to better understand each other and to further the discussion and the thoughts that we will have together,” said Anjali Mishra – section manager for major projects with the infrastructure department at the City of Montreal.  

Because of its proximity to McGill University, the project is particularly meaningful to the school’s Indigenous student body. 

For Matthew Coutu-Moya, who is Michif-Chilean from BC, the collaborative aspect by including a non-Indigenous point of view highlighted the intersection of cultures in the city.

“It speaks to how we deal is a place where people come together from all over the world,” said Coutu-Moya, who is the administrative supervisor at First People’s House, a support system for all Indigenous students at the university. “I think the project itself was very powerful.”

McGill student Danika Zachary, who is from Kahnawake, also appreciated the installation artwork, and the opportunity it provides to learn about Kanien’kéhá:ka culture. 

“Everyone, anytime of the day, can come see them, interact with them, are invited to sit and take pictures,” said Zachary, and attended Snow’s workshops at First People’s House. It’s a place where she said she’s found a sense of belonging and community. 

Each station has a QR code with more information about the themes and concepts behind the artworks.

“I will leave you to discover all the details,” Revenko said. 

nanor.fr@gmail.com

This article was originally published in print on June 7, in issue 33.23 of The Eastern Door.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.