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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Aboriginal Artist Earns Unique Olympic Spotlight
by Shelley Cook - Winnipeg Free Press

Since she was old enough to pick up a paintbrush, Winnipegger Jackie Traverse knew she would be an artist. Her destiny was confirmed Monday when she received national honours for art that will be displayed at the Vancouver Olympics.

The 40-year-old mother of two daughters is the only Manitoban Coca-Cola selected in their Aboriginal Art Bottle Program.

The program will showcase the work of 15 aboriginal artists from across Canada who created art from giant-sized Coca-Cola bottles.

Traverse, who is of Anishinabe descent, said she was inspired to paint her bottle, entitled Nokomis Mikinaak -- Mother Turtle, from one of seven sacred aboriginal teachings. Her bottle, which is about two metres tall, will be unveiled at The Forks National Historic Site on Jan. 5.

She said her inspiration for this project, as well as for all her art, comes from her own life experiences.

She said growing up in poverty in the North End with her father, she led a rough life. Her mother died at the age of 27 from alcoholism and her two sisters and one brother were adopted out to white families during the "sixties scoop" of government-led adoptions of aboriginal children.

She says she spent many years living a "wild life," until deciding it was time to go back to school and fulfil her dream of becoming an artist. She recently received a diploma in fine arts from the University of Manitoba.

"If I didn't have that past life," she said, sitting in her living room surrounded by art. "I couldn't be doing what I'm doing now."

Traverse created her bottle with a homemade primer base and acrylic paint. The project took her a couple of weeks to complete.

The bottles will be unveiled regionally and across the country throughout the Vancouver 2010 Torch Relay, and then profiled during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. After the Games, the bottles will be auctioned off on eBay, from Feb. 15-25, with proceeds going to the Aboriginal Youth Legacy Fund.

The hope is to raise a few hundred thousand dollars to go toward the Aboriginal Youth Legacy Fund, said Kirsten Mihailides, public affairs and communication manager for the Coca-Cola Olympic Project team.

"It's important for us to be a part of the legacy," said Mihailides, noting it is important for all 15 of the artists to be involved as well, so they can give back to their communities through their art.

Aside from the Coca-Cola bottle, Traverse said that she has just received a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council, which will allow her to put on an aboriginal storytelling-themed show featuring 12 contemporary pieces that will showcase the way aboriginal storytelling has changed over the years.

Traverse sells her art at the Wah-sa Gallery at 130-25 Forks Market Rd.


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