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Among the principle Dodems (clans) of the Anishnabek are the members of the Fish Clan, who are said to be teachers possessing knowledge of the world that needs to be imparted to others. However, as fish are relegated to the realms of waler, they are in need of one who can carry their teachings to others. This special role falls to Turtle (Makkinak), chief figure among the fish clans, who is able to dwell both below the waters and upon the land. As such, Turtle is said to be a communicator, possessing the ability to speak the languages of all beings who dwell upon Mother Earth — those of the waters, land and air — and therefore acts as an emissary for all.

In this piece, one can see the prominence of Turtle setting out into the world to relay the important knowledge as imparted by all those gathered around her, to we human beings, rendered on the right. The prospect of Turtle as a 'communicator' strikes a paradoxical tone given that they do not produce readily audible sounds, and who, given the apparent absence of ears, were once thought by early science to be deaf. However, later science has been able to determine that their ears are, in fact, internal. In other words, it is this subtle yet vital internal mechanism that helps them understand and navigate the external world. This characteristic only heightens the importance of Turtle's symbol for humanity, demonstrating the importance of the unseen, as the deepest truths about ourselves and our world are discerned through our internal, many would say "spiritual," faculties. And have not the events of 2020 presented humanity with an urgent call to listen more deeply to those beings with whom we share this planet, in order to understand our responsibility in ensuring the health and well-being of our precious home!

Mark Nadjiwan ~ the Artist and the Art

The subject matter and style of artist Mark Nad)iwan are predominantly inspired by his First Nation heritage. He is a self-taught artist who works primarily in pen and ink. His unique style is a fusion of the Woodland and Northwest Coast Native art traditions. In his work, one can often see the Woodland's characteristic x-ray and wavy line motifs interwoven with the clean formlines and geometry that often typify Northwest Coast art Mark's First Nation roots are grounded in the Lake Supenor and Georgian Bay regions. He continues to live in the traditional territories of the Amshmabek Nation with his artist wife, Patricia Gray. Mark's w'ork can be found in galleries and venues across Canada as well as private collections in both Canada and the United States.

Artist's Statement

"Although I have a deep and abiding affinity for w hat my Anishinabek ancestors called 'keewaydinung' - land of the northwest wind - my experiences of our vast and wild regions are. ultimately, trans-cultural in nature. Whenever 1 travel into those ancient and sacred spaces, path underfoot or paddle in hand, it is my 'internal' experiences of being there that I later try to 'externalize' in my drawings. I choose to do this in a style that is largely derived from the artistic traditions of Aboriginal people as they are the ones whose lives have been most intertwined with the natural world and whose images and stories most resonate with me But the messages that 1 try to incorporate and communicate in much of my work such as connection, interdependence and unity, are universal."

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Emissary by Mark Nadjiwan

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