A Syilx artist’s mural design has been selected as the winner of the Kelowna Gospel Mission’s beautification project.
In addition to having his mural painted on the back of the building in the near future, Sheldon Pierre Louis of Bound by a Feather Designs was also awarded $10,000 by the Gospel Mission and the Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Society (OIMAS) for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”
“The artistic mural installation is meant to be a reflection of the internal work that the Kelowna’s Gospel Mission is doing at decolonizing the mission,” said Jenny Money, a member of the Westbank First Nation and president of OIMAS.
Louis said that his design represents the strength, determination and resiliency of the Syilx peoples.
“This piece tells three stories that in ways intertwine with each other through communal and familial ties,” said Louis. “The main figure of a Syilx woman standing in the center is of my late Aunty twi Lucy Louis. She was one of three influential people in my path as an artist, she inspired me at the age of six to become the artist I am today.”
To her left is an image of community member, artist and author Billie Kruger holding a drum while kneeling at the water’s edge and releasing salmon fry, which Louis said represents the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s initiative to revive salmon stocks in the region.
To the right of his Aunty, is an image of his niece, Irene Wheeler (Louis), who he said is named after his grandmother, Irene Louis, who also happens to be the aunt to his Aunty.
“I have added baby Irene as she represents the babies, the young ones. Aunty Lucy always mentioned and shared messages of remembering the babies and the young ones when we are making decisions in life as they will carry the impacts of our decisions,” he said. “I have depicted baby Irene in an orange shirt and the words Every Child Matters to speak to the impacts of residential schools on our peoples.”
He added that he decided to feature three Sylix women in his design to depict the different phases of life, and to represent the strength and beauty of Sylix women.
“As our Indigenous women face the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit (MMIW2) crisis it is important to always lift up and remember our women, our matriarchs,” he said.
Behind the three women are two female tuma (grandmother) spirits watching over them, which he said symbolizes the strength of Sylix women and the spiritual connection. A line of salmon bordering the design represents resilience and the path forward.
“No matter how hard the work is we will continue to journey forward. This is how I see the possibility for reconciliation through doing the hard work, fighting against the flow, and being determined to reach our destination,” he said.