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Massy Interviews / Lynette La Fontaine

On Thursday, June 16 at 6pm (PST), join Massy ArtsMassy Books, and Métis artist Nevada Christianson for an online panel discussion inspired by her latest book: “Métis Now: Elders, Artists, and Activists” (2022, Hemlock Press). The publication is a collection of digital illustrations that investigate portraiture as a form of activism to shine a light on inspiring members of the Indigenous community.

At the event, Christianson will be joined by Métis Elder and advisor on Aboriginal mental health Denise McCuaig, elected Regional Métis Women’s representative for the Kootenays Jana Schulz, and Two-Spirit and non-binary Métis visual artist Lynette La Fontaine. After the panel, an intimate session of Q&A will be open to all attendees.

The event will be hosted online, through Massy Arts’ Zoom room.

Click here to register for the event

This interview is part of Massy Voices, an ever-evolving collection of book launches, exclusive interviews, and artist talks that celebrate community voices and the stories they carry. Click here to know more.

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To celebrate the panel, Rafael Zen interviews Métis artist Lynette La Fontaine for Massy Arts, questioning why it is important for emerging artists to maintain culture/knowledge systems and pass on to future generations.

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Lynette La Fontaine / Healing seven generations back and seven generations forward

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Rafael Zen – How was it for you to be chosen as a part of the book “Métis Now: Elders, Artists, and Activists”? As a Métis artist, what did you hope it would be portrayed in Nevada’s work about yourself and your culture?

Lynette La Fontaine – I first came across Nevada’s stunning digital art via the MNBC InstaGram page. She was asked to do the portraitures for the Metis Speaker Series for which I was a speaker. Nevada then asked if my portraiture could be included in her book.

I had no expectations about the book. I saw it as Nevada’s artistic expression and connection to community and our culture. She did share some of her desires and wishes for the impact of the book.

I think it is fabulous to be featured alongside many other folks who are doing good work in community and for our Nation. I think it is important for people outside our Nation to know who we are and that we are a living and thriving culture.

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RZ – In 2016, you began a formal mentorship journey to learn Métis art forms with knowledge holders and Elders. Why was it important for you to take this mentorship? Can you tell us more about what you have learned – and how you want to share the knowledge that was passed on to you?

LLF – Mentorships gave me the opportunity to seek master knowledge holders and Elders to share knowledge that very few people held twenty years ago. I strongly believe in learning and reciprocating this learning to other Metis artists and community members to sustain this knowledge and pass it on.

Being able to source funding allows me to travel, as needed, buy supplies, and give honoria to the knowledge holders. Mentorships allow me to learn reciprocally in a traditional way. It is my schooling. Building relationship and asking in a good way is an important part of mentorships.

It can take two years or longer to build trust and to begin knowledge sharing. I have mentors who have shared knowledge on beading, moccasin making, whitefish scales, tufting, and hide tanning. Now others are seeking my knowledge for mentoring them on their journeys.

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RZ – Since your mentorship, you have mentored other artists formally and informally in Métis beadwork, whitefish scales, tufting, and tanning hides. Why do you think it is important for emerging artists to maintain the knowledge and pass on to future generations? How do you, as an artist, understand the balance between preserving culture and creating new forms of culture?

LLF – There is a responsibility in sharing the knowledge with others. I realized the weight of this responsibility when learning to tan hides. So many cultural teachings are included in practicing our art forms. I will be learning for the rest of my life.

A huge part of this responsibility is for future generations to be able to have access to this knowledge. Knowing who we are and where we come from is vital to our health and wellbeing and is included in Metis art forms.

I am not sure I am creating new forms of culture as that takes community and the Nation. However, I do know I am adding in new elements from the materials we now have access to, the influence of other Indigenous artists, how we currently wear and express our culture via art, as well as changes in the environment that are drastically impacting our access to plants, animals, and fish.

Many of our art materials come from harvesting, such as parts of animals we hunt for food that we cannot eat. These parts include the fur, quills, bone, antlers, teeth, scales, and more.

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RZ – You say healing is the center of your work as an artist. How did you find healing through artistic practices? When healing, what do you think you are healing from? In your journey as an arts mentor/instructor, do you feel that many Indigenous folks find in arts this way to heal?

LLF – We are known as the flower beadwork people. When I taught myself to bead in 2007, I instantly felt more connected to my ancestors, culture, future generations, and myself.

I was taught when we heal, we heal seven generations back and seven generations forward. Learning to bead connected me to people in a new way. Folks began to share stories and knowledge about their connection to beadwork. I could never have predicted how learning to bead would impact my healing and life.

I believe I am healing from my own trauma, as well as intergenerational trauma. Colonial policies slowed and broke the lines of knowledge, such as banning practices, speaking our language, being forced to attend residential schools, forceful removal from places, and more.

I witness many folks be positively impacted in their own healing journeys by learning beading and other art forms. Often we bead together, in circle, so it gives us a chance to connect in a non-threatening or triggering way. I have used beading as a way to connect with folks in my nursing practice.

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RZ – What do you think attendees can expect from this online panel? How do you feel about sharing this space of dialogue with Denise McCuaig, Jana Schulz, and Nevada Christianson?

LLF – I think attendees can expect a lot of laughter, vulnerability, and wisdom from this online panel. I am looking forward to dialoguing with Elder Denise, Jana and Nevada. I have relationship with Denise and Jana and have enjoyed our visits and interactions in the past.

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