TORONTO, July 17, 2017 /CNW/ - An expansive mural showcasing Akwesasne culture and history was unveiled July 17 at OPG's St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre in Cornwall.
The impressive work of art, titled "Kaniatares", or Long River, captures a typical day in a Mohawk village on the St. Lawrence River in the 1700s, before the construction of the early canal systems. It is now mounted prominently in the centre's auditorium.
"The river has changed over the years but we still rely on it," renowned Akwesasne artist John B. Thomas said of his painting. "The water has always been sacred to our people. It has been taught to me by my parents and my traditional family."
The mural's grand unveiling was attended by OPG executives and staff, members of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, including Grand Chief Abram Benedict, and Thomas and his family.
Spanning 21 feet and painted over three canvases, "Kaniatares" is the culmination of six weeks of work by Thomas, who started the project last October.
The acrylic painting displays longhouses situated on lush, tree-filled land, with the rushing St. Lawrence in the foreground. The men are seen fishing and hunting, while the women are seen making pottery and preparing food. The work also features clouds in the shape of a bear, wolf and turtle – a representation of the local clan system.
"OPG is proud of the relationship that we've built with Akwesasne," said Mike Martelli, OPG President, Renewable Generation and Power Marketing. "I am thrilled that our Centre will showcase such an important piece of Akwesasne history for many years to come."
The new mural was commissioned by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and OPG to tell the story of life on the traditional Akwesasne land as told by the elders.
"Through this latest commendable initiative, our neighbours and visitors will learn of the strong history and connection Akwesasne has with the waterways and land in this region," said Grand Chief Benedict.
As a member of the Akwesasne community, Thomas was a natural choice to bring the project to life given his 48 years of experience with Indigenous art. The self-taught artist has completed many wall murals and original paintings, and his work is displayed throughout North America.
"My parents were a really big inspiration," he said. "They felt strongly about our culture and embedded that into their children. Now I instill that into my paintings."
Along with the mural, visitors can view a video featuring an interview with the artist as well as a time lapse of the painting from start to finish.
SOURCE Ontario Power Generation Inc.
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