Little children our beings they found you - mijua'ji'jk ntininaq weji’skesnik is one of five can’t-miss projects at this year’s Nocturne, a site-specific art festival that has things popping up all over Halifax from Oct. 13 to 15. Read more about the other Nocturne projects we’re most excited about here.
“If you are a product of trauma, whether it's war, or abuse, or whatever, you have no way of knowing what love—and unconditional love—means,” says artist Michelle Sylliboy, a Mi'kmaw woman who is a day school survivor and the creator of the Nocturne project Little children our beings they found you - mijua'ji'jk ntininaq weji’skesnik. “And this story, this history, this untold history [of residential schools and the confirmation of mass graves]: We are all affected, regardless or not if you were a survivor, or whether or not you went to school. If you are a citizen of this country, you were not told the truth—the same way we were constantly told we were lying. Indigenious people have been trying to tell the truth for so many years. And we're constantly accused of lying or that our story is not good enough to be told. Or they patronize us or go ‘There there, we’ve had it bad, too.’...I've been told that literally: ‘This is how it is. You’re just gonna have to get used to it.’ And as if I'm supposed to accept the trauma or the abuse, whether it's lateral violence or physical violence. I'm supposed to just suck it up and accept it. Well, I'm sorry, I’m not.”
Instead, Sylliboy has created an ever-growing body of interactive artwork that acts as a tribute to the children who died at the residential schools. The latest embodiment of this ongoing work is an installation of light boxes as part of Nocturne, on view in the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall from 11am-9pm Oct. 13-14, and 11am to midnight on Oct. 15. Each light box projects messages written by past viewers of Sylliboy’s work (and there will be an opportunity for Nocturne guests to leave a written message for future pieces) that has been translated into Mi’kmaq hieroglyphics. The motion-activated light boxes are a way of thinking about reconciliation as a community: As Sylliboy notes, “people of all colours” have submitted notes for this installation. A performance by artist Sarah Prosper will also take place at the exhibit on Oct. 15 at 2pm and 5pm—an element Sylliboy is palpably excited about.
“There’s a Mi’kmaq story that the Milky Way is the journey to the spirit world,” adds Sylliboy. “In the Mi'kmaq world, our living world and our spirit world are connected—and oftentimes, you’ll see this light—and if the Milky Way is the journey to the spirit world, then the idea of lighting up the sky, or what’s above you, was part of that.”