Alderville First Nation artists brighten Cobourg’s waterfront with a touch of reconciliation

Two Alderville First Nation artists are showcasing their work on Cobourg’s Victoria Beach. The popular waterfront destination on the shores of Lake Ontario, 140 km east of Toronto, was revamped for the event.

Twenty-six banners enhance the lampposts on the waterfront from the Cobourg marina to the east side of the boardwalk of the beach.

Anishinaabe Artists Koren Smoke and Rick Beaver joined Cobourg Councillor, Adam Bureau, and the manager of Culture, Jackie Chapman Davis for a quick kickoff of what is being called the wisdom pathway.

The artists then joined the crowd of supporters for a guided tour and explanation of each art piece.  Smoke’s work focuses on the Seven Grandfather teachings, Respect, Love, Bravery, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility and Truth.

The vibrant display is the result of a collaborative effort one year in the making.

“I didn’t see as much representation when I was growing up here, so I feel like the artworks are definitely inclusive and identifiable, especially to those Indigenous populations that may come to school here, or suffer from displacement,” says Smoke.

Smoke, who went to high school in Cobourg says she’s honoured to have her work here.

Jackie Chapman Davis says the idea was to brighten up the pathway from the old traditional blue and white harbour banners.

“I thought a pop of colour would be really cool down here, so then I got to thinking how am I going to do that and then I thought of working with them Rick and Koren,” says Chapman.

She says the beach draws thousands of visitors every summer.

“I feel like a lot of people will learn more to it and just an in a fun way and it’s an opportunity to you know not just reading it in a book, we can walk here and we can read about it as we walk,” says Chapman.

Beaver’s works line the board walk of the beach. His are themes of the land, water creatures and plants. He says he has a few favourites, which both artists created, called “All my relations.”

“Isn’t that exactly what we’re talking about here, about the importance of this particular event,” he said. “These are our relations out there in the waters and the land and then the gardens and in the sky, those are our relations” said Beaver.

He said the collaboration is an opportunity to share First Nation culture.

Smoke said he considers it an act of reconciliation.

“Hopefully they look up the artwork and the descriptions online and are more interested in getting to know us as Anishinaabe people as a community just 20 minutes north of here, more than just gas stations and dispensaries and cigarettes,” said Smoke.

According to Chapman Davis the banners should last about three years.  They’ll be removed over the winter months.


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