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For local artist Kyle Joedicke, murals are an opportunity to honour his Indigenous roots and share stories with the Hamilton community

By: Edwin Thomas, Contributor

As students, many of us are familiar with the difficult dialogue that is often involved in learning, particularly in conversations about Indigenous justice and reconciliation. However, most of us might not be aware of the importance of art in fostering these conversations. Art is powerful. It can raise awareness and provoke thoughts and dialogue while also helping us to give voice to experiences and stories that are otherwise difficult to communicate.

For local artist Kyle Joedicke, his murals are a way to honour his Indigenous roots and share Indigenous art, culture and stories with the Hamilton community. Joedicke is Cayuga Turtle Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River and grew up between the Six Nations reserve and Caledonia on the border of Hamilton. Although he describes himself as being not very connected to his Indigenous identity during his adolescent years, he began rediscovering his Indigenous roots in his twenties. 

Joedicke uses his art to find his voice as an Indigenous person. His work has helped him become closer with the Indigenous community as well, which in turn teaches him more about the culture. For Joedicke, the relationship he has developed with his Indigenous community is a gift.

“I’m speechless in a lot of ways about the gifts that I have been given recently,” explained Joedicke. 

His first mural was of an orca commissioned by Merk Snack Bar in 2020, dedicated to his late grandmother. He soon realized the spaces he was creating Indigenous art for could be used to support urban Indigenous communities and provide opportunities for conversation between both Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks.

Joedicke’s murals are woodland style and inspired by the style’s creator, Norval Morrisseau. 

“His ability to paint these oral stories in such a visually captivating way is remarkable,” explained Joedicke. 

Similar to Morrisseau’s depictions of traditional stories, Joedicke recently created a mural depicting The Seven Grandfather Teachings, which is an oral teaching and tradition centered on the Indigenous way of life.

Joedicke also uses his art to explore intergenerational trauma among Indigenous communities.

“I think being Indigenous means being resilient in a lot of ways. From the inception of the colony of Canada, it’s been the goal to have us not exist, to put it in blunt terms. To be an Indigenous person in 2021 is to be living proof of an entire civilization’s will to live,” said Joedicke.

The discovery of the unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential schools over the past few months has shocked the nation and impacted Indigenous individuals and communities in complex ways. This extends to Joedicke, whose grandparents were survivors of the residential school system.

Recently, Joedicke has been working on a mural in the memory of children who died while attending residential schools. The mural is located at St. Matthew’s House

He found the experience of creating the mural at St. Matthew’s House cathartic and an opportunity for reflection.

“While I was working on the mural, it gave me a lot of time to reflect on the fact that it isn’t specific to me. It is an issue that has affected thousands and thousands of families. It also gives you a sense of the community because of the outpouring [of] support from the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities,” explained Joedicke.

Art can be an important catalyst for conversation and change and Joedicke has felt that the important role art plays in social progress in creating his artwork.

“It was impossible not to feel the added weight behind the art because, at that point, when you are trying to convey the particular images and ideas, it is too emotional to not be present for it,” explained Joedicke. 

Joedicke was recently featured on CBC and has recently been commissioned across the city to continue his work, including a future project with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. 

“I want people to be able to come to see this art and feel that they are welcomed and included. It’s something they can be a part of and interact with,” said Joedicke.

Youth, representing the future generations of our society, are pivotal to social progress and change and embody people’s growing openness to learn. Joedicke encourages students from McMaster University to learn more about Indigenous culture as much as they can.

“It’s never wrong to ask questions. Education is important, especially in terms of understanding different cultures. Look into the teachings; [they] can be applied to your own life without being associated with a particular religion or culture. The stories are one of the major things that help us learn in life,” said Joedicke.

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