“This painting is a mirror”

Image result for christi belcourt

I am awestruck by the beauty and complexity of Christi Belcourt’s art. And I am somewhat ashamed at my ignorance and inability to accuractely read and interpret this piece. Her gift has given to me and my experience is enhanced, but I have nothing in return, no way to navigate its truth with words.

I visited a store in Ottawa this summer called “Beaded Dreams” which is Indigenous owned and operated. I spoke with Ashley, a talented beader, and she told me that hers is a gifting culture. Christi Belcourt’s gift is given a title with the word, “mirror” and I keep thinking about a spoken word poem by Guante, “The Family Business” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2fIn8n9KEo . His poem contains the line, “they got me wiping my reflection from the glass”.

I also keep thinking about Emily Style and how she wrote about the curriculum as “Windows and Mirrors”; I am deeply committed to students being able to see themselves in our classwork this year, so this art and writing and thoughts are consuming me. Yet, I am fortunate to have a partner in this difficult be necessary work. Amanda Potts is a beautiful person, a beautiful teacher. Her classroom is a painting that is a mirror for all of her students and you need to know that she works with the most struggling students; she works with the ones that others fail to reach. I hear about her lessons, her thinking and ideas and watch her through this window wanting to see myself reflected on the glass.

She talks about reading and writing, how all English teachers read, but very few write and she’s right.

So I’m going to write.

But today, I am afraid.

Tomorrow, begins the important work of Indigenous Studies in grade 11 University English at Nepean High School, my first year as English and Fine Arts Department Head. I look up Christi Belcourt’s painting again and find it on a website https://resilienceproject.ca/en/ filed under the category of “resilience”. My consternation is fractured with a smile, aha, and I vow to take the gifts of learning and give them all away.

4 thoughts on ““This painting is a mirror”

  1. Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts. I can hear your openess and willingness to be the best you can be. Good Luck! Rita


  2. Windows and mirrors, indeed, my friend. Would that we could watch each other’s classes, be able to see our reflections more clearly together. I am incredibly excited to have an ongoing conversation with you. You bring new depth to my thinking day after day. Even here – I did not know about Belcourt or Guante. Such beauty is out there for all of us to discover. I’m glad you’re writing.


  3. This artwork is so beautiful, so compelling. I loved the beader’s words “Hers is a gifting culture.” Your teaching sounds beautiful and compelling, too. What an interesting course, Indigenous Studies…such important perspective-taking for students.


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