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reForming Relationships with Aboriginal Communities through Art


Field trips are not usually included in classis meetings, but for Classis Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan (a regional group of churches), a field trip was on the agenda of the fall meeting.

Delegates viewed an exhibit of “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” (“The Creator’s Sacrifice”), a series of paintings by self-taught Cree artist Ovide Bighetty.

Delegates of Classis Alberta South & Saskatchewan view Cree art.

“These paintings depict the Easter story in Woodland Cree artistic style,” said Steve van de Hoef, Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer for Canadian Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. The paintings were commissioned by Indian Metis Christian Fellowship, a worshiping/working ministry of the Christian Reformed Church in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The paintings are being shown across the country as part of the reForming Relationships tour organized by the CRC’s Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee. One of the stops will be at Synod 2012 in Ancaster, Ontario, in June.

“The tour is about forging and deepening relationships between Christian Reformed and Aboriginal communities,” explained van de Hoef. “In some places this will mean building on the foundations of existing relationships. In other places it will mean learning about Aboriginal culture and current lived experience, perhaps for the first time, and creating space for relationships to be built. But in all places, it will be living out Jesus’ ministry of restoring (re-forming) relationships broken by sin.”

When Bighetty accepted the challenge to paint the story in a fashion consistent with both the gospel accounts and Aboriginal culture, he consulted widely with Aboriginal elders and artists from Regina and from his home community, Pukatawagan First Nation, Manitoba. “These paintings have served as a point of contact and a bridge between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” said van de Hoef.

Bert Adema, director of the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship, said people who had seen reproductions previously were impressed with the beauty of the original paintings. “This exhibit is wonderful. It was good to have classis see the artwork after hearing about it for a number of years. It was great to have classis visit the art at a First Nations owned and operated gallery and to have a First Nations institution host the exhibition.”

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