Keeping Hope - Katikakiw, the Raven

Aaron Paquette

Edmonton, Canada

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Artist's Description

This is one of a series of 5 paintings. I’ll post the rest in the next few weeks as I find the time.

This piece is talking about Residential Schools and the symbols we use. At first glance it may look like the young woman is praying, with some sort of religious head gear on. Upon closer inspection, we find that what we might have taken for hands pressed together in benediction is instead a rabbit, and the hat is instead a raven.

So, while we may assume one thing, the spiritual reality is much different.

I’ve heard a lot of stories of the people who had to undergo the pain of being forced to learn an alien form of spirituality and worship. Some were clever enough to go through the motions, but instead of praying to a saint, in their hearts they instead communed with nature, remembering the teachings of their tribe or community.

At some point if I find the time, I’ll come back and talk more about this, but as it is…well, here it is.


Pisiskow Acahkwak
animal spirits

I did this series of five paintings with the animal totems that lead us forefront in my mind. Each figure has two totems in their field, the primary one with the single, all-seeing eye, and the secret one that they keep in their hearts, the one that whispers.

This can be interpreted in many different ways, one of which could be seen as the clan totem and the personal totem. Another viewpoint could focus on the animal spirit that guides our life as the larger totem, and the animal spirit that guides our moment as the smaller. Both of these ideas are correct, and in fact, as many more as can be conceived would work. This is the strength and power of symbols: that they can hold as many – and as much – meaning as we can pour into them. A symbol is a vessel that can never be filled, but only grows deeper the more we add meaning to it.

In many ways, then, we can look at our own lives as symbols of something deeper.

As we are all connected, each of these paintings lead into each other until the last, which returns again to the first. Like all symbols, these paintings contain in them more than I could ever say, but in my writings, I’ll maybe give us a place to start

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