Kayla Bellerose a.k.a. bb iskwew has created works for Driftpile Cree Nation, Whitefish Atikameg First Nation, Loon River First Nation, and with an urban Indigenous youth group at Calgary John Howard Society.
“I am a Cree-Métis emerging artist originally from Slave Lake in Treaty 8 territory, with family ties to Bigstone Cree Nation and Sawridge Cree Nation. My artist name is bb iskwew symbolizing my traditional Cree name gifted to me by nokum (my grandmother) when I was born, which was Baby Woman. My art practice reflects my connection to the matriarch of my family, nokum, who gave me that name with the intention that I would become a healer and share medicine to help People.
Today, my art practice is a way to share my healing journey with people, specifically with younger generations. The work I do is my own healing journey of building healthy communal relationships with the land, culture, nehiyawewin (cree language), younger generations, and to my matriarchal roots.”
Mackenzie Brown a.k.a. Kamâmak is a multitalented First Nations Cree woman from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, currently residing in Amiskwaciwaskahikan, Edmonton. She is a performer, drummer, tourism entrepreneur, philanthropist and advocate for at-risk youth in the Edmonton area.
“I am a young Nehiyaw iskwew (Cree Woman) who has been doing art since I could pick up a paint brush. I am an acrylic artist by trade, having had my art featured in several galleries across the Province, brought to MASA (Africa’s largest performing arts festival) in Africa 2020 to represent Indigenous Art, being a top three finalist for Landscape Artist of the Year Canada and also recently featured on Rachel Notley’s page “Artists from the Unknown,” she explains.
My art comes from my Cree culture. I paint to represent the land, animals and being an Indigenous person in a contemporary context. I like to use bright colours and evoke the feeling of connection and movement in my paintings.”
As two Nehiyaw Iskwewak (Cree women) artists, we were both impacted by the loss of a community matriarch, artisan, and entrepreneur, Amy Willier, the co-founder of Moonstone Creations in Inglewood. In our state of grief for such a big loss in the Alberta Indigenous art’s community, we created this piece in tribute to the powerful legacy Amy Willier has left in our hearts. For this year’s BUMP 2021 Festival, we approached Yvonne Jobin, Amy’s mother, to propose doing a large-scale permanent mural to honour the love and light Amy brought to the community of Calgary and received her consent.
This piece was created in collaboration with both Kayla Bellerose and Mackenzie Brown. The portrait of Amy wearing a buffalo robe is a recreation of an original photograph by Yamuna Flaherty, a photographer and friend of Amy’s. The circle behind Amy’s portrait is the sun with 7 beams of light representing the 7 Sacred Teachings of Truth, Honesty, Respect, Humility, Love, Wisdom, and Courage. Amy Willier embodied these teachings with the way she lived her life with family and community. The symmetrical butterflies represent the transformation of coming from darkness into light, and we chose the colour orange to honour the children being found at unmarked mass graves in residential schools across Canada, and green to honour the intergenerational healing of our future generations. Amy advocated for Orange Shirt Day for years, so we know that she is now a helper in the spirit world bringing home the children who never made it back to their family.
Lastly, Amy was a knowledge keeper of Cree women’s medicine, and shared teachings with Kayla before passing, so the beaded style plant life in front of Amy represents the medicine teachings she shared, and are stylistically like beadwork to honour her legacy as an Indigenous artisan and beader. Raspberries, rose hips, and sage are women’s medicines that Amy shared teachings about before her passing. The tiger lily in her hair was suggested by Yvonne who shared that those were her favourite flowers, and they grow wild throughout Alberta.
We are grateful for the opportunity to honour the legacy Amy has left us, hiy hiy to her family, friends and community for the love and support throughout the creation of this piece. We love you Amy.”