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Canmore artsPlace exhibit amplifies voices of Indigenous youth

“It’s a chance for them to experiment and play with different formats of expressing themselves, reflecting on how sport, play and being outside affects them.”

CANMORE – A photovoice project coming to artsPlace focuses on amplifying the voices of Indigenous youth through the lens of land-based sport and play.

Spirit North director of communications, Meredith Bratland, said Show.Tell.Share. is the result of equipping participants in the non-profit’s programs with more than cross-country skis, kayaks and mountain bikes, but also visual storytelling tools.

“We’ll give them digital cameras and we’ve also had GoPro cameras put on helmets while mountain biking in our programs. All of the photos and footage that will be on display was created by youth,” she said.

“It’s a chance for them to experiment and play with different formats of expressing themselves, reflecting on how sport, play and being outside affects them.”

Participating photographers in the exhibition used a visual method known as photovoice as a means of sharing their perspectives and individual experiences, to promote cross-cultural understanding and share ways of being and relating to others.

In many Indigenous communities, storytelling is a common way of sharing knowledge, understanding, and relating to other people, places and ideas.

The photovoice exercise is another means of storytelling, merging with land-based activity and reflection. Each image is accompanied by a brief quote from the photographer discussing what their photograph and experience mean to them.

“They say a picture paints 1,000 words,” said Bratland. “Reflecting on those images, I think, there were some really cool quotes from the youth that capture the joy of being a child, playing and being outside.”

Megan Imrie, program development manager with Spirit North, said the non-profit has been using photovoice as a program development tool for a few years now, but this is the first time they are creating a display for the public to view.

“It speaks so much to the youth experience because you can see it through their eyes,” she said. “It lends itself to capturing a huge variety of programs, we have so many different sports going on all year, different seasons that we find ourselves in, and different communities.

“Using photovoice is something that is just so much more colourful than anything a survey or an interview could ever provide for us or for people who want to know more about the programs.”

Through land-based activities, Spirit North aims to empower Indigenous youth to reach their full potential in sport, school, and life, improving their health and well-being.

The ability to regularly take part in sport and recreate outdoors offers opportunities for participants to learn valuable lessons, discover untapped potential, and develop the confidence to overcome the challenges Indigenous youth often face.

The Show.Tell.Share. exhibition showcases that and includes works from Indigenous youth involved with Spirit North in the Bow Valley, and across Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Locally, Spirit North runs after-school programs for students at Morley Community School, Exshaw School and Lawrence Grassi Middle School, providing opportunities to participate in outdoor programs year-round.

Bow Valley’s own will be featured in the photovoice display, which includes 10 large photographs, a looping video with GoPro adventures spliced together, and a map of where all the footage was taken.

One clip from the video, Bratland said, features a young girl narrating her mountain biking trip.

“She’s doing this fairly strenuous activity and she’s narrating the turns and the hard parts – it’s very sweet the way she is talking her way through it,” she said. “I think it’s a great example of being unstoppable and having that confidence in yourself.”

The exhibition opens at artsPlace (Wednesday) March 22 and will run until April 16. An opening reception will be held March 29 at 5:30 p.m.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.