‘Major step’: New 3-storey mural in Duncan explores reconciliation

'Major step': New 3-storey mural in Duncan explores reconciliation
Photo: Duncan Cowichan Chamber/Instagram
A new mural by artist Charlene Johnny exploring the past, present and future of reconciliation was unveiled Saturday, July 29, 2023, in downtown Duncan.

A new mural exploring the past, present and future of reconciliation is soaring three storeys in Duncan, beautifying the city’s downtown in an inclusive way, according to organizers.

The massive mural called Thu-itsthuw tun shqwaluwun, which means be truthful with your feelings in Hul’q’umi’num’, was helmed by artist Charlene Johnny of Coast Salish Art and is located at 221 Jubilee St. in downtown Duncan.

“This is a major step for reconciliation, building meaningful connections in the community and a better understanding of each other,” said Councilor Albie Charlie of Cowichan Tribes Council in a news release.

The mural was unveiled Saturday during a special celebration that saw Tzinquaw dancers attend and “bring that good medicine and bless this work,” said Johnny in an Instagram post while also thanking those who attended.

“Witnessing these songs and dances has a way of pulling at my heartstrings. My hands are up to everyone involved in this mural project and to those who came to the unveiling. I am over here revelling how everything turned out.”

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The Nanum Iyus Tth’ele committee, comprised of community partners including Quw’utsun Elders and youth, the Cowichan Intercultural Society (CIS) and the City of Duncan, announced the project in July 2022.

Painting got underway on July 5, 2023, and the CIS regularly posted updates on the mural’s progress to its Facebook page. The society says this was Johnny’s 17th mural, which she developed with the committee.

The art installation features various colours like blue, green, red and orange, and Johnny dives into the meaning of its design in her Instagram post.

“The designs that are depicted in this mural are a reflection of snuw’uy’ulh (teachings) from our siem s-ul’hween (respected elders). We want to honour the past, the present and the future,” wrote Johnny.

“This mural contains elements of our culture and our values that have developed throughout our history in Cowichan,” she said. “Additionally, the tears of the sun and the orange footprints represent the grief and sense of loss that we feel for the children who did not make it home from residential schools. We always have our ancestors with us, we are never walking alone.”

According to the CIS, it funded the project alongside the Island Coastal Economic Trust Community Placemaking Program, the Duncan United Church Reconciliation Fund, the Pacific Mountain Region Fund, the City of Duncan, B.C.’s Community Gaming Grants Program and the Vancity Community Partnership Program.

“The mural … is thanks to the collective efforts of Nanum’Iyus Tth’ele committee under the leadership and guidance of a circle of strong and community-centred Quw’utsun Elders, inspiring us to work together towards a future rooted in truth and healing,” said Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples.

CIS executive director Amanda Vance says the society “is honoured to play a role in co-creating a visibly welcoming, diverse community that acknowledges the history and culture of the unceded territory of the Quw’utsun people.”

Johnny posted a video of the mural online here.


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A post shared by Charlene Johnny (@coastsalishart)

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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