Original Instructions

We're on assignment. Bodies on consignment. Return them to the circus, and what is the purpose? What is the purpose and would you believe it? Would you believe it if you knew what you were for, and how you became so informed. Bodies of info performing such miracles. I am a miracle made up of particles and in this existence, I'll stay persistent, and I'll make a difference and I will have lived it... ~Nahko Bear

We’re on assignment. Bodies on consignment. Return them to the circus, and what is the purpose? Would you believe it if you knew what you were for, and how you became so informed. Bodies of info performing such miracles. I am a miracle made up of particles and in this existence, I’ll stay persistent, and I’ll make a difference and I will have lived it… ~Nahko Bear

As I have embraced my Indigenous culture I have learned about “Original Instructions”. There are many variations of original instructions. Elders and/or academics will all tell you a different story. My understanding is that we are all created with these original instructions. In my culture the concept of original instructions is nurtured within the child. Parents and the community assist in developing the gifts that the child has and this will lead him/her to fulfill the instructions. If this is possible his/her life will be fruitful and filled with balance.

I am learning that my body is filled with instructions but I was displaced when I was adopted by white parents. My adoptive parents cherished me. Unfortunately their love and adoration wasn’t enough. I was separated from my biological mother and father and my culture. So an understanding of my original instructions was delayed. As a child I was consumed by loneliness and a need to fit in. Loneliness governed my unhealthy decisions and the need to fit in compromised me constantly. The racism I experienced as a child led me to reject my culture, my race entirely.

Over the last few years I have been delivered to the path I am on. My original instructions are beginning to be realized. There were a few steps in this process.

1) A major heartbreak brought me before an Elder. I arrived there filled with desperation and left with a small bit of knowledge about culture, about original instructions.

2) This blog gave me some clarity. A starting point. I knew I needed to experience an unconditional self-acceptance. It began as a search for body acceptance and led to racial and cultural acceptance. For the majority of my life I felt inferior. This notion of inferiority existed long before I was fat. I was a little red (Indigenous) kid fighting off racist bullies in the playground. When I got fat later on in my life I experienced fat related alienation. So I am almost comfortable with my fatness and I embrace my race and my culture.

3) I am a bioethics specialist and I have never fit in the comparative schema of learning in mainstream academia. I am Indigenous and I have learning disability. Academia is difficult and more importantly it gives me very little joy. Bad grade, good grade and excellent grade are all met with only slight fluctuations of emotion. It’s nice to get an A+ but I don’t thrive on it. When I get an A I am so depleted by the displeasure I experienced while completing the particular assignment an A is only a small reward. Because of this I am an artist. The art keeps me grounded. I love it and when you love something you don’t leave it for long.

4) My failure to fit into the comparative schema of academia and my love of art have united which has given me a small voice in the academy. Recently I was invited to submit my art to The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. It will be featured at a conference in October and a small publication will follow. I enter the door of The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada as neither an academic nor a physician but as an Indigenous woman who is challenging the colonial gaze imposed upon the Indigenous patient with art.

This most prestigious publication is the beginning of the path that I was meant to walk. I know this because my purest prayers are the simplest. I say over and over again, “Please teach me so that I may be useful.” And the messages in my paintings are useful. I will endeavour to improve clinical medicine for Indigenous patients in the nonclinical format of art.

Everything is falling into place. I started a work study in a hospital and I am now the editor of the Indigenous medical humanities section of an arts based medical journal that explores the interface between the arts and healing. I am contributing to other publications and furthering my bioethical knowledge. I am working on an arts-based thesis with an amazing supervisor and I am always painting. Life is good…

I am moving to the next stage of my artistic journey.

You can find me here.

Thank you again for all your encouragement and support.

Love and gratitude,

Lisa

Go in a good direction and it will carry you. ~Lee Maracle

Protection

I use the Indigenous body, my Indigenous body, to resist the sexualization and violence perpetrated against Indigenous women in the media and by the state.

My artistic journey has taken a different turn. I enjoyed the fat-positive project of self-portraits but as I have become more aware of what is means to be an Indigenous Woman, the meaning of my art has changed. Often when I would photograph myself I would have an idea, move through the shoot and construct later. Now the construct of my photos has become deeper, more meaningful. I continue to further the narrative of past photos.

Some of my photos are used as a teaching tools. I developed a lecture series that analyses the objectification of Indigenous women in mainstream media, stereotypes and the clinical gaze of the Indigenous body. I relate this to my photographic process and my experience of posting artistic nudes online. I use the Indigenous body, my Indigenous body, to resist the sexualization and violence perpetrated against Indigenous women.

I also use digital paintings to illustrate the legacy of colonization. Elder and scholar Lee Maracle says, “You have to tell the most horrific story with gentle words”. My paintings tell the story of colonization in the gentlest words I can muster.

My life has been deeply enriched by my artistic process and it continues to develop. My new blog lives here.

Love and gratitude,

Lisa