Indigenous artist ‘putting Gitxsan people on the map’ in China
‘Maybe my art will provide a small glimpse of seeing our people in a … more accurate light’: Angela Sterritt
CBC News, August 31, 2016
A Gitxsan artist from British Columbia is among several artists from around the world chosen to create murals at a mountain village resort in China.
“To be able to put Gitxsan people on the map and shed light on the reality and history of Indigenous people in Canada is something I am very grateful for,” Sterritt said.
Angela Sterritt, who is also an award-winning journalist, spent five days painting her mural on a 10-seven-foot wall in a resort on Mount Longhu in Jiangxi, a province in southeast China.
She travelled to China at the invitation of Karl Schutz, a German-born Vancouver man known for establishing an acclaimed series of murals in Chemainus, B.C., in the 1980s.
Schutz, in turn, was invited to organize the mural project by Steven Liu, a well-known Chinese entertainer, who “wanted to create a global mural attraction in his artisan village,” according to Schutz.
“I found Angela’s website on line and was amazed about her powerful art … her painting is awe inspiring,” said Schutz.
Sterritt made the journey with her young son, Namawan, who also helped with the project.
The mural Sterritt painted is a re-creation of one of her existing works, called First Contact, which she says is about the resilience and strength of Indigenous women. It is a striking image is of an Indigenous woman facing the viewer, while helicopters hover behind.
“It depicts a woman whose connection and love for her community, family, the land and her culture eclipse fear instilled in us at the time of first contact,” Sterritt said.
“As a Gitxsan woman, I’ve been gifted Sip’ xw hligetdin — the strength to speak out — through my art and as a journalist. This piece speaks to Indigenous women rising from the ashes [using] what has been within her all along — her culture, in this case from the Wolf Clan, an Owl Crest and a Big Raven House.”
Challenges worth it
Sterritt describes the experience of being in a mountain resort in China as “nothing short of incredible,” especially the food and the beautiful scenery.
It wasn’t without challenges, however.
“We also were faced with very, very hot weather, peaking at about 38 degrees daily, so often it was too dangerous to work. There were also several thunder storms, which meant less time to work as the heavy rain and wind would wash fresh paint or chalk away,” Sterritt said.
Working through a Chinese translator was challenge, she said. Also she injured her feet while climbing down from a scaffold and in the heat, the wounds soon became infected.
Still, Sterritt said the overall experience of sharing her work, providing an image of contemporary Indigenous peoples without stereotypes, and the story of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls made everything worth it.
“I have talked about the MMIW stories I’ve reported and written about here, and people are completely shocked, and so for me, maybe my art will provide a small glimpse of seeing our people in a different, more accurate light.”