Bracken Hanuse Corlett tells stories through Year of Reconciliation bus stop art

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      June marks the fourth month of the City of Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation public art project, and the city has unveiled bus stop artwork by Vancouver artist Bracken Hanuse Corlett to mark the occasion.

      Corlett’s four-paneled artwork depicts monsters in Northwest Coast indigenous oral history, in four different stories surrounding reconciliation. These prints are installed at 20 bus shelters around Vancouver.

      The inspiration for the piece came from his own Wuikinuxv and Klahoose heritage. He felt compelled to submit an artwork exploring the theme of reconciliation because residential schools had direct effects on his own family.

      “Every family has their own story, I think, and my family’s story is really, very sad and tragic, actually, the impact that it had,” Corlett told the Georgia Straight by phone.

      “My mom had 13 brothers and sisters who all went through [it], my grandparents went through [it], there’s other factors that made the experience extremely negative and I think the impact is definitely still present. A lot of my family is still healing from it.”

      The top panel of Corlett’s work symbolizes protection, and depicts the cannibal of the north, with a raven above it, deflecting the negativity of the monster with a curved arrow. The second panel deals with escape and tells the story of the wild woman of the woods who catches children and takes them away if they’ve wandered too far.

      The third panel explores decision-making, and depicts the wild man of the woods, who offers enticing gifts that turn out to be horrible things. The bottom panel symbolizes balance, and shares the story of the double-headed sea-serpent, Corlett’s family crest, and finding the truth within.

      Corlett explores the idea of reconciliation through his culture’s own traditional artwork because he feels like bringing it back is one of the most important parts of reconciliation.

      “I was learning about how our art was basically, you know, through the potlatch ban, pushed down for over 60 years,” he said.

      “A big part of it for me is just reclaiming the art form and just being a daily practitioner, and just also reclaiming language and, you know, just traditional practices. For me reconciliation is a personal journey towards reclaiming those things.”

      He also believes that as artists it is important to have an open dialogue between First Nations and non-First Nations artists, and that non-First Nations artists have an important role to play in reconciliation as well.

      “Some of the non-Native artists they chose, they had really interesting perspectives as far as being Canadians or new Canadians, and their role, I guess, as artists and dealing with the impacts of history on the land that we’re all on.”

      Above all, he hopes that he can use his art as a platform to share his own Northwest Coast indigenous culture with the world and explore deep-seated issues in Canada’s history.

      “I think [art] plays a really important role. I think there’s a lot of younger artists coming up now, and even artists from older generations that have always used basically the traditional forms and ways to convey what’s happening now. I think there’s many examples of artists who have reached a broader audience with their messages through art.”