Thoughts come to my mind residing in Tkaronto for the past 19 years. I reflect on never feeling quite home here; personal memories I accumulated, traumas, relationships and their contracts. My higher self often tells me I am a visitor here and cannot claim permanent roots. I feel cities have their own energy and vibration. Tkaronto feels frenetic, frazzled, eager, commercial, a bit jumpy, holding a wealth of secrets. Perhaps part of this wealth is the secret of what has been buried beneath concrete. The richness comes from a soil upturned too many times forced through urban development and yet remains prosperous. You can sense the soils are ravaged. The consumption of natural resources has been done with greed, lacking the consultation or planning of the first caretakers of this land. These first caretakers, knew the land deeply and the course of nature’s cycles. They helped settlers with wayfinding.
Many emotions and thoughts come to mind while digging up what can no longer be seen in the city with its towering skyscrapers, high rises, neon lights and heavily paved roads that have been built with a sense that resources are infinite and of no consequence. As a result, our infrastructure revolts and floods, as a reminder that our choices were not made with honour to nature’s considerations. In spite of what has been done, there is relief from understanding that this place has always been called the trading place. This was a place where people gathered from both ends of the lakes, Great Lakes to trade goods and make agreements. This was not intended to be a place of settlement, but a place to navigate through. Much of Tkaronto is built over marshland.
I poured and marbled paint directly onto a canvas and allowed it to dry for several days. I added colours to the marbled designs. Part of the studio floor was uprooted and large chunks of concrete stuck to the back of the canvas. I have been studying old portage routes in Ontario, underground waterways (the Garrison Creek, Don River, Humber River), early contact and pre-contact trade routes from Lake Couchiching and Simcoe, Lake Ontario as well as the development of Yonge street and the histories of the Mississaugas of the Good Credit. The name Tkaronto has roots in Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe for meaning ‘fishing weirs standing in the water’ ‘tall trees in the water’ as well as ‘the gathering place’ or ‘carrying or trading place’.
In Nta’tugwaganminen, placenames were analyzed via their linguistic structure. Indigenous languages are embedded with land-based knowledges and have distinct characteristics based on how words are structured. Specifically, words are often long clusters that comprise of a verb-phrase. In toponymy (how we name places), there are different ways of naming. A doublet is a set of two place names sharing identical lexical basis; one specified and one not (p.33). This can show what direction people were travelling, for example a lake may be small in comparison to another lake, comparatively and therefore would be named ‘the lake that is comparatively smaller than x lake’. This can show migratory patterns of nations or how the land was used. In this speculation, knowledge carried within names contain ethnographical information that further refines what was done in a particular place and how the land was used.
The formation of paint on the canvas was a meditation on the waterways and secrets we can no longer access, resembling the fluidity and pathways of water. At moments during the painting process, I lost my way in the design, unable to find routes and much data was lost in the rendering from of the initial pattern that was poured onto the canvas. I must impose my own imagination and choices onto a pattern that had its own distinct marks. This intervention stands in as a metaphor for grappling with what has been done, and asserting my presence over it. The longer I become acquainted with the painting and selecting portions of the design, I could grid and plan the movement and direction of the painting. This had to be done by creating stark lines of contrasting colour from the rest of the pattern. I reflect on this as a metaphor for wayfinding and uncovering lost histories. I think about what may have happened surviving in the bush, tracking, trapping and using place-markers to find my way and navigate the elements.
My colour palette and design was guided by studying the metaphysical qualities of crystals, geodes, precious stones and minerals. I wanted to see what would happen if I meditated on the the interconnection of all beings. I think about cellular division and how the micro is often an iteration of the macro. I think about topography from a bird’s eye view, and observing the minuscule under a microscope and how their similarities outweigh their differences. I think about how frequently in discussions about land and resource extraction, we consider water and women to be spiritually connected. I think about how the land and body is spiritually connected, and how the exploitation of Indigenous bodies is performed on the land via mineral and oil extraction. I consider human nature and desire. I think about our desire for an object of beauty and our complex relationship with this. Beauty and desire in its primacy stirs the emotions. I think about western philosophy and science’s deep roots in power and control. Most theoretic and ideological work is based in humanity’s fear of vulnerability and the inception of these ideologies were methods in which to control nature, explain the sublime and come out superior to it and conquer what cannot be controlled. Western philosophy has sought to understand the emotional drive and explain the metaphysical. This has been done through colonization, war, education and mass production.
“Don Was Here.” Don Was Here, www.donwashere.com/.
Frim, Monica. Secrets of the lakes: stories from the history of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching. Lynx Images, 2002.
Kruzich, Noreen. The ancestors are arranging things. Borealis Press, 2011.
“Lost River Walks.” Lost River Walks, www.lostrivers.ca/.
Mi'gmawei Mawiomi, Gaspe'gewa'gi. Nta'tugwaqanminen Our Story evolution of the Gespe'gewa'gi Mi'gmaq. Fernwood, 2016.