This installation is an expression of the traditional flow of knowledge and teachings from generation to generation. It is about honouring the work done by my late great-grandmother, Dr. Ellen White, Kwulasulwut, as an elder in residence, and my grandmother, Joyce White, Sa'lay'wi'ah, for her critical role in creating the Xwulmuxw (Indigenous) Studies program. These murals are my own artistic rendering drawing upon traditional Coast Salish style and imagery. The two murals “Lhuxw (Flow)” and “Matriarch Moon” come together to form the telling of this story. The imagery of the night sky, the stars, and the “flow" of the Milky Way is drawn from the meaning of my late great-grandmother's name “Kwulasulwut” which means “Many Stars” and is a beautiful image of the gifts she gave so many. I am honoured to have the opportunity to share Coast Salish art at the VIU Library and to share the wealth of Snuneymuxw culture and tradition with all visitors to this place. I hope to blanket and honour future generations of Snuneymuxw with this art as they do the sacred work to learn.
This mural, at the fireplace, is a centering of the flow honouring Snuneymuxw Matriarchs and the profound impact they have had at VIU and in our community, in particular my grandmother, Joyce White, Sa’lay’wi’ah, for her work with the creation of the Xwulmuxw (Indigenous) Studies program, and my late great-grandmother, Dr. Ellen White, Kwulasulwut with her work as an Elder in Residence. The stars throughout are a reference to the name that my great-grandmother carried “Kwulasulwut” which means “Many Stars.” These stars are the gifts she gave to so many through her lifetime of work, and draw upon the milky way of our teachings. The Matriarchs of our families have given us everything.
This mural is a depiction of serpents in the flow. They are supernatural beings and guardians of the river here in Snuneymuxw. They represent the teachings, the words that we speak, the stories that we tell, and the love that our ancestors have for us. There is a juxtaposition of symbolism in the imagery, drawing inspiration from my Liberal Studies education, and how serpents represent very different things in Western and Coast Salish tradition. The serpent is what gave the apple of knowledge which caused humans to be cast from the Garden of Eden, it is seen as a malevolent being. Whereas in Coast Salish tradition they are powerful helpers who can benefit or harm us, but they are not seen as malevolent or benign, they exist outside of morality. With that reference, I prod at the eurocentrism of academia and promote decolonization of education.
— Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun
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