Métis youth wins national emerging artist award

Original article from Atikokan Progress http://atikokanprogress.ca/2014/07/29/atikokan-youth-wins-national-emerging-artist-award/

we are one
Emlyn Cameron’s winning artwork “We Are One”.

Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizen, artist Emlyn Cameron is following her family tradition of Aboriginal traditional storytelling through her art—and one piece has now earned her Historica Canada’s Aboriginal Arts & Stories award in June.

The 12 year old (she was 11 when she submitted her piece, “We Are One”) was unable to attend the tenth annual awards ceremony held in Gatineau, Quebec, but was “excited and really surprised” to discover she was one of three first place art category winners from youth across Canada.

Not only was her work a part of a June 3 exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History, she is also the very first winner in the new ‘emerging artist’ category (11-13) included this year.

The arts and literary competition is open to First Nations, Métis and Inuit contestants aged 11 to 29 from across the country, and six winners were chosen out of 420 submissions.

The awards are “in celebration of rich and distinct heritage through literary and visual arts,” notes Historica Canada. “The stories and art pieces submitted to the contest touch upon topics of national importance, like the tragic and ongoing legacy of residential schools, or the rediscovery of traditional knowledge and practices, while other works present distinct stories from individual communities and families.”

Cameron’s work, depicting a loon, has historic, traditional and family connection for her family, as the young artist wrote in her description which accompanied  her award-winning acrylic painting.

“I chose to do this painting because I feel connected to loons,” she wrote. “They are a part of me and I am one of them; a part of nature. Hearing the loons in the evening makes me feel very peaceful when I am at the lake. Hearing the first call in the summer is what I look forward to.”

Cameron recounts how her love of the bird has meant more since her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatments. The painting’s brilliantly depicted life forces which connect the loon to the rest of nature, has been somewhat therapeutic for a young girl dealing with this stressful situation.

The loon is the bird Cameron’s mother who is also a Métis artist, has adopted as her totem, a spiritual animal which has special meaning to an individual in Aboriginal culture.

“When I found out the loon was my mom’s totem animal, I decided to make the loon [in the painting] represent her,” explained Cameron. “She just went through cancer treatment and she said she lost touch with the loon and became sick. She forgot to live a more tranquil life and stay connected to nature and nourish herself; her mind, body, and heart.”

“Now she is nourishing all of us,” continued Cameron. “Going through a scary and draining series of treatments made her rethink what things are important in life. The loon reminds us of the importance of slowing down to enjoy life, nourishing ourselves more naturally, and communicating and enjoying the company of others.”

The painting shows the loon’s interconnection with other animals and the energy flow from one animal to another, and Cameron’s mother agrees that the spiritual disconnect can affect physical health.

Cameron will enter Grade 7 at Atikokan High School this fall and even though there isn’t an arts program there anymore, she will continue the art tutelage she has received from a young age from her mother.

While Cameron generally leans toward realism as her preferred art, but she said she does enjoy dabbling in the Aboriginal style, as with the loon piece.

“I have been influenced by my mom’s art and her teachings about meanings in art, colours and techniques,” said Cameron.

She added that this award has been very validating for a fledgling artist.

“I always feel like my paintings wouldn’t be good enough [to win an award]. This has made me feel more confident.”

Congratulations on this great achievement!

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