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Reconciliation Carving Series at Langara College focuses on building traditions

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Reported by Bonnie Lee La Madeleine

Aaron Nelson-Moody shows class the work of a student. Photo by Bonnie Lee La Madeleine
Aaron Nelson-Moody shows class the work of a student. Photo by Bonnie Lee La Madeleine.

A new program at Langara focuses on building traditions through storytelling and carving that sustain connections across generations.

The Reconciliation Carving Series focuses on personal healing and growth. The series creates space for personal journeys for all involved, as they think about how art and culture contribute to one’s understanding of place and identity. It is open to students of all backgrounds, and consists of two carving courses and one research portion.

“The art is just one aspect of what we do,” said Coast Salish carver Aaron Nelson-Moody speaking about his craft and its role in the Squamish Nation. “It’s sort of our version of written history.” Nelson-Moody is an instructor for the course.

“We are one”

Garwin Sanford is an instructor from the film arts program who is documenting the students’ and the course’s progressions.

“My question, as a privileged, old, white guy, was: what does reconciliation mean to me,” he said, but as students began sharing stories of residential school crimes and working out their feelings, his expectations changed.

“What you hope for,” he said, “is that you can actually move closer to natsumat.”

Sanford said the word means “we are one’, but others in the class said Elder Shane Point, defined the word differently. Point volunteers his time each Friday with the group, and defines the word as “we in this together”. Natsumat has no precise English spelling outside of the Coast Salish spelling.

It is a part of keeping tradition

“We’re reaching a process, which is what I am after,” Nelson-Moody said. “It’s being part of a continuum of carving and ceremony that has been going on for 12,000 years here.”

Sanford is hoping that when people see the documentary they will say, “Oh, we can do that.”

The Reconciliation Carving Series is a collaborative offering of the Aboriginal studies, fine arts and film arts programs. Their studio, room A045, is open to the public every Friday afternoon.

Carving tools made by the students wait to be sharpened. Photo by Bonnie Lee La Madeleine
Carving tools made by the students wait to be sharpened. Photo by Bonnie Lee La Madeleine.

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