‘We are all related’: Artist Jeannie White Bird discusses her work now showing at Winnipeg’s city hall

The city of Winnipeg unveiled a new mural this week as part of the city’s commitment to diversity and anti-racism. Rolling River First Nation’s Jeannie White Bird is one of the artists on the project.

“The traditional name that was gifted the mural that’s at city hall in Winnipeg, it was given the traditional name by Elder Marcel McKay, from Rolling River First Nation. And that name is Gakina Gidinawemaaganidim (we are all related). That translation was given by Elder Roger Roulette in Winnipeg,” White Bird said.

The work was a collaboration with mural artist Charles Johnston and assistant Ellen Hart. It features symbols like stars, feathers and water. When people come and visit the mural, White Bird wants them to feel its spirituality.

“So the overarching meaning and message that I want people, that we want people to get from it is that spiritually we are all related to one another. We are related to the people, across all nations, all genders, all ages, and all nationalities. We are even related to the plants, to the animals, and to everything on Mother Earth,” she said.

This isn’t the first time White Bird has been tasked with painting a mural. The emerging artist’s work can be seen throughout Manitoba including one at her hometown library in Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg.

The piece in Selkirk is called ‘Sacred Spirits of Turtle Island.’

White Bird said there isn’t one specific teaching or symbol she uses in each mural, and it depends on the subject of the murals she does.

“You know that kind of depends on what the mural is about. Right here with the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls it’s about the sacred spirit of all people, of all Indigenous people. With the city hall mural, the spirit of everybody, of every living thing, that’s what rang true for me and that’s what I wanted to convey,” she said.

White Bird’s favourite element of the newest mural is personal to her.

“I just love the spiritual component in every single piece. I really like the fact that I could incorporate my daughter’s star blanket, my daughter’s baby star blanket in the very last segment within the celestial component. So that kinda reminded us you know that, to walk in a humble way, to be humble on Mother Earth because really we’re just little specks in the whole scope of the universe, White Bird said.

The mural will stay at Winnipeg’s city hall for a few months and then will travel to other city buildings.

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