Artist Sikipinakii Shares Creative Process

Artist Sikipinakii hosted a zine-making Story Jam in February. Hear about the creative process leading up to the event.

"Oki Nikso’kowaiks

I first got involved with Canada Bridges back when Alison Stalker was assisting Siksika Employment and Training Services with their Summer Student Program. I was given the position of Youth Chief in Siksika and worked a couple times with the organization in regards to youth leadership. I stayed in contact after the summer had ended and even throughout my last year of university, I had built a great relationship with everyone at Canada Bridges.

When I was told about A Youth Explosion (AYE) 2019, I immediately thought about the previous one that I had attended with my peers from the youth council and how powerful the whole experience was. Being able to see Indigenous youth, older and younger, from Treaty 7 present in front of so many people about their own stories. I remember Alison had encouraged me to be involved in AYE 2019, I was very hesitant until a few months prior to the event itself. I decided then to be involved with AYE, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or how I was going to present, I didn’t stress to much about it.

Sikipinakii (Centre) with friends Danii Kehler (left) & Pelletier Medel (right) on opening night at Stride Gallery

At the same time I was asked to exhibit my work at Stride Gallery in their project space, I agreed as it was a great opportunity as an indigenous emerging artist. I was deep into my photography, as I had started taking it more seriously that past summer, I decided for the exhibition/project to be based around the lack of a father growing up. In all aspects of the medicine wheel (mental, physical, emotion, spiritual) I was very much healing from not having a father in my life. My biological father has many brothers and growing up they taught me the skills that my father should have taught me. In the exhibition, over the span of 4 months, I took photographs with my Canon AE-1 of my uncles, my grandfather, and my mother, and took notes of specific memories (current or past). When the exhibition officially started in January, every couple weeks I would put up a new framed photo and memory of these important figures in my life.

Photograph from "I'm Only Going to Show You Once, Now You Try" Exhibit

I had the chance to question a lot of things in regards to my biological father being absent, I talked a lot with my uncles and through them those questions were answered. By the end of the exhibition I had come to terms with his absence, whereas at the starting I couldn’t help but tear up when I talked about him not being there.

Sikipinakii presenting at A Youth Explosion 2019

When I presented at AYE 2019, I presented one of my main photographs where I was fixing the pasture fence of my late grandfathers property with my ninna (father). My ninna traditionally adopted me as his own, he is actually my biological fathers younger brother, he cares, teaches, and loves me like I was born his. I told my story of domestic violence and intergenerational trauma to people I knew and to strangers. I also made sure to tell the story of my father figures always telling me “Im only going to show you once, now you try” which became a term of endearment from them. This same statement is the title of the exhibition at Stride Gallery as I thought it was important to tie the two together as they are the same, one is just not in front of a live audience.

After AYE I was given another great opportunity to facilitate a Story Jam with a mini-tour of my current exhibition. I taught others how to make smaller versions of a ‘zine’ as they are the size of your palm, usually, my zines are much bigger, 8.5 x 11 inches paper that are folded in half. Zines are an open concept to me, as you can make a zine out of any topic that you wish. I personally use zines so that I can efficiently get an idea(s) or concept out into the real world as it is hard for me to verbally do it. Using zines allows me to openly say tell my story whether it be in the form of texts and/or images, it is an easy medium to work with.

Zine Making at the February 2020 Story Jam

It was a pleasure being able to work with many people during that night, as I could really see the creativity in others where they often would say they didn’t have that skill. In some way or form I could see their own story coming through in the zines."