The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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637 Main Street    Location Map

Photos 1-5: Finished Mural.
Photos 6-8: At Mural Unveiling.
Photos 9-11: In Progress.

Location: NE corner Main & Logan; South Face

Occupant: Main Street Project Shelter

District: City Centre

Neighbourhood: Civic Centre

Artist(s): Peatr Thomas, Mike Valcourt (both unsigned)

Year: 2021

Sponsors: Protect Our People MB


Chris Redekop (Vincent Design): "I reached out to Mike and Peatr about a month ago (i.e., June 2021) and we were cruising around for a highly visible spot in the central part of the city that made sense as a location. I took a bunch of shots of various locations and showed them to the campaign leaders to see what they thought; and their main choice was this building! High traffic area, huge empty wall, just recently repainted (see photo 9). I reached out to Anastasia (Main Street Project) and she handled all of the approvals for us to paint their building."

"We supported the designs that Peatr and Mike conceptualized independently. The Mural design was their own. The colour swatches used with the syllabics were directly from the campaign of ProtectOurPeopleMB. ProtectMB is the GENERAL public provincial campaign. ProtectOurPeopleMB is the Indigenous version of that. It's really focussed on getting vaccines to First Nations communities. The working group that's leading the strategic goals of the campaign are all representatives of different First Nations governance organizations. The people that have been advocating and speaking on behalf of the campaign are all these young First Nations individuals involved."

"The campaign already had a brand established. There are campaign posters on various bus shelters that you can see when driving around. Peatr pulled the colours from the campaign, and also the star blanket motif."

Peatr Thomas: "I was approached my ProtectOurPeopleMB about doing a Mural for them. I always look into the places that ask me to do work for them- to see what they're about and their background and if their goal is in the right place. I don't want anything to be misrepresented in the work that I do. I talked to Chris about what they were about and also to get to know him personally. Once I got the message about what they were about I said to myself 'these guys are OK!'"

"Main Street Project were glad to give us the wall right here. Shortly after they reached out to me they also reached out to Mike Valcourt; and we decided that we wanted to collaborate on it. We had already collaborated on the Daphne Odjig Tribute Mural, Thunderbird Woman on Ellice (select 400 Spence in address lookup box), and one other floor Mural inside the WAG. [Ed. Note- Peatr Thomas also worked with Mike Valcourt in 2017 on Mike's 'Nibaa' Mural (select 171 Princess (2) from address lookup box in RIP section of this site)]."

"Mike and I tossed around some ideas of what to do here. I really wanted to do syllabics- something I had been putting off for awhile. I presented this idea to him and he was 100% down with it, so we went for it!"

"Now the syllabics on the wall reads 'Nanakachiishinam (na-na-ka-chii-shi-nam)'. This translates to 'Protect Us/People' from Anishinaabewomin. Credit for this translation goes to Virginia Sky from Miskooseepi."

"The word Anishinaabewomin refers to the LANGUAGE of the Anishinaabe people. I am Anishinaabe; my Mother is Anishinaabe; my Dad is from Cross Lake Cree Nation in Manitoba. We call ourselves 'Inninew' so you could say I'm half Cree and half Ojibway, not to be mistaken with Oji-Cree which is entirely different."

"While I was painting the wall we had really good conversations and lots of friendly comments particularly from Indigenous people but also people of settlers' descent about the syllabics. Indigenous people were happy to see representation of something they're familiar with but also conversing with them. A few of them were from communities not far from where my Mother was from; and I grew up there. Some of them even knew my family. Good conversations; I think they're just happy to see something more that lets them know they are seen, that they are visible and secure and are represented through this Mural. A few people even recognized the syllabics and knew what they were."

Mike Valcourt: "It is instantly recognizable to some people as syllabics. They might not instantly know which language it is or what it means, but they've seen it before."

Peatr Thomas: "Each one of the syllabics corresponds to its syllable: na-na-ka-chii-shi- nam. You can count 6 syllables here but there is an extra syllabic symbol at the end. The second last symbol is the sound for 'na'; and the backwards c-looking shape is the closer, the 'm'. The 'm', the closer, is what depicts the dialect because there are different dialects."

"The two graphic elements balance asymmetrically; their colours and sizes complementing each other. Rather than having the star blanket in the center it was at the right side. We HAD to include this as it is part of their branding. I didn't colourize the star blanket because I didn't want it to take away from the syllabics. The main focus of attention is on the syllabics. The angle or slant of the syllabics is in one direction; the star blanket is slanted in the exact opposite direction. They balance asymemmetrically."

"Letting the syllabics stand on their own lends itself as a decolonising process, seeking the repatriation of the meaning of Indigenous words. By having the syllabics standing on their own, I mean that they are standing without translation. We didn't write in English or cater to western culture. It's about having the language stand for itself, as well as creating a dialogue about it."

"The style of the syllabics in 3D and with a white outline- this is synonymous to a Graffiti Art style. This is familiar to me having a background in it; and is a way of combining something new with something ancient!"

The artists of this project encourage folks to learn more about the importance of protecting Indigenous lanuages. Here are a couple of resources they provided: