ASUS commissions ‘My Creation’ mural

Indigenous artist Portia Chapman discusses work

The mural is wonderfully bright and colourful.
Supplied by Portia Chapman

The Arts & Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) recently commissioned Indigenous artist Portia Chapman, BFA ’19 and ConEd ’20, to complete a mural titled My Creation for an upcoming event.

The mural will be showcased Apr. 7 in Kingston Hall’s Reflection Room as part of an ASUS-driven movement. Commissioning the artwork is one step toward ASUS’s goal of restoring the Reflection Room as a place for reflection and Indigenization.

“I originally started planning the My Creation in my second year of my fine art degree,” Chapman said in an interview with The Journal.

“I had created this image, a black and white drawing, that I was going to paint for one of my courses. Some plans changed, and I ended up doing a different painting.”

Chapman, previously an ASUS receptionist, feels things have come full circle after bringing My Creation to life as a mural years later.

None of this happened by accident: the ASUS Journal of Indigenous Studies (AIJS) used My Creation as the cover image on its debut issue back in 2017. Chapman said seeing this cover is what prompted ASUS President Alyth Roos to seek her out.

“When I met with Alyth the first time, she mentioned that she was on the committee for [AJIS] and that she remembered seeing my image on the front cover,” Chapman said.

My Creation is a colourful artistic interpretation of many traditional Indigenous creation stories, specifically those of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.

“I represented Sky Woman in the top right-hand as the mustard-colour body with the yellow head, and the eagle floating above her with the rainbow feathers up there,” Chapman said.

“The Turtle is the representation of, in the stories, where North America is created on the Turtle’s back and is now Turtle Island.”

Another part of the creation story represented in the mural involves the Muskrat—an otter in some versions of the story—who Chapman described as a heroic figure. He dove deep into the water to dig up the soil that ultimately prospered on Turtle’s back.

“If it wasn’t for the Muskrat, the land wouldn’t exist,” she said. “That’s why I have the otter’s face front and centre—if it wasn’t for he or she, we wouldn’t be here.”

Chapman said the yellow at the bottom of the mural is her interpretation of Creation itself. The rising blue water droplets represent the breath of Creation.

All the mural’s shapes are undeniably eye-catching due to their bubbly features and vibrant colours. Chapman hopes these purposeful artistic choices succeed in communicating the desired message.

“Everyone agreed that it needed these bright, joyful colours. One of the goals of my artwork is to make people feel emotion, and hopefully positive emotion.”

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