New seasonal banners in downtown Sidney featuring art by WSANEC artist Sarah Jim capture not only memories of the past, but also hope to send a signal about future relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Instead of emblazoning its seasonal banners with a photo as in past years, Sidney commissioned Jim for a piece of public art. The image, divided across two banners, consist of a crab holding a crescent moon amidst an eel grass meadow, as well SENCOTEN name for the area SET,TINES as well as the word Sidney.
A total of 64 pairs of banners with the two components line Beacon Avenue and also on some side streets between Fifth Street and Seaport Place.
While Jim grew up along Patricia Bay, she would frequently visit Sidney.
“When we were kids, we would always flip over rocks and find crabs and play on the beach,” she said.
“I wanted to focus on an image that would kind of encapsulate being by the ocean and I’m sure many people have similar experiences…”
The moon has also been a frequent motif of Jim’s art ever since childhood.
“As an adult, I have been learning about the WSANEC 13 moon calendar,” she said. “It’s really guided by the lands and the seasons tell us what activities we should be doing.”
Jim also sees the moon as a feminine symbol, which she likes to incorporate into her art.
“There are Coast Salish artists around, but there is not a ton of us, so I really like to emphasize that feminine energy in my art work too. The moon is very cyclical and it is constantly changing. That’s how life is too. We are all going through phases. Nothing is constant.”
The incorporation of SENCOTEN also points to the historical and continuous presence of WSANEC People, also known as the Salt Water People, in the area.
“Indigenous representation is the most important thing to me, representing my community and hopefully, community members where I am from, will feel more comfortable in these somewhat colonial spaces.”
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said in a statement to Black Press that it is exciting to see original art by the talented Jim so prominently displayed on Sidney’s seasonal banners.
“The artwork celebrates the ocean and serves as a beautiful reminder that our community lies within the traditional territory of the WSANEC people whose presence and connection to these lands and waters continues today and has since time immemorial,” he said.
He added that the municipality is committed to strengthening its relationship with local First Nations, pointing to policies in the draft official community plan, which include exploring the creation of traditional and medicinal gardens in municipal park lands in collaboration with WSANEC communities and working together on a memorandum of understanding to guide government-to-government relationships, he added.
The banners will be on display until September.
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