Monday, June 05, 2017

Uncovering Saskatchewan's historical faux pas from sketching the Devonian Pond


Yesterday, the Toronto Urban Sketchers headed over to the Devonian Square, near the Ryerson Image Centre, to sketch the Devonian Pond, also known as Lake Devo. I was hoping to get a nice picturesque pond with the surrounded buildings and boulders reflected on the water, but there was no water. Just a couple puddles here and there, probably from the rain earlier that day and some discarded coffee cups. There was also large images of a lady wrapped in a bright red fabric standing on a rock pasted onto a couple boulders . Not what I was expecting, but then again, Toronto is always full of surprises. 

It turns out that the images are part of a temporary art installation by artist Lori Blondeau regarding Indigenous identity. It was a bit shocking a first to see this but not nearly as shocking as it must have been for the Crees and Assiniboin who saw their 400-tons sacred gathering rock blown up by the government in 1966 to make way for the man-made Lake Diefenbaker, named after the John G. Diefenbaker, former Prime Minister of Canada. Knowing a little bit more of the story behind the installation, it makes a little more sense. I can see the parallel between the sacred rock in the 1960s that was destroyed to make way for a man-made lake vs an empty man-made pond using imported boulder from the Canadian Shield plastered, almost like a graffiti on a natural stone, with the image of a Cree artist defiantly and ironically standing on a rock in pristine nature wearing a red cloth. 

From what I understand, this installation brings more awareness so that we can hopefully make better decisions.  It's great to be aware of these stories to get a better understanding of the complexities of our history. But, where do we go from there? What's the next step to make things better? Apparently the site it still considered sacred despite being 60 ft under water. Steven Thair, a diver in Saskatchewan discovered the remains of the rock and is looking to make a documentary about it. He's also looking for experienced Cree divers who would be able to work with him. 

You never know what you're going to find out when you take the time to sketch the city. We had a great turn out. About 20 sketchers showed up to sketch the empty pond and surrounding areas. You can see more images on Facebook and Instagram


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