Sunday, November 10, 2019

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Seek and Ye Shall Find

It was 1995. Flight from Yellowknife, NT to Johannesburg, SA was booked; bags packed.


Prior to that though, a story about one of my sculptures, “The North Pole Man,” was published in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, no less. The story caught the attention of a Catherine Thicke, Art Director from the UK and one organizing “One World Art, The Right to Hope.” An exhibit showcasing a number of Indigenous artists from around the world which was to celebrate the 50thanniversary of the creation of the United Nations. Apparently, based on that article published in the Wall Street Journal, I was “the Man” from Canada. Invitation was accepted…why not?

Official Book published
I did have a piece of Carrera marble laying around in my studio and was wondering what to make out of it. The Invitation was the Inspiration. Given the theme of the exhibition, I thought of melding the affinity the Inuit have with the land and sea. Therein, lies what you see in the sculpture created…giving life to our land-based feature of an Inukshuk combined with Sedna, the Sea-Goddess. The braiding of the hair is significant as it symbolizes her contentment with the Inuit and sea creatures. Sculpture was completed, photographed, and shipped a month prior to my flight.

I then quickly applied for a Canada Council for the Arts travel grant and was successful.

After a day and a half and a few thousand airmiles, I ended up in Johannesburg in time for the opening of the exhibition. There, I met other Indigenous artists from around the world and met Catherine Thicke, the Art Director and organizer. However, I sensed something different about her. Other artists also concurred. She was extremely aloof and unfriendly, unusual for someone in charge. We all figured…oh well. 

Our assurance from Catherine was the exhibit was to tour the world and we would all be kept informed. I left the exhibit and flew home to Yellowknife…never to hear from Catherine ever. Throughout the years since, I let the loss of my art-piece slide with the sunset. Only a memory remained. Still hope too remained and two years ago, I felt the sunrise.

With the advent of social media, I registered with #Twitter and sent out a tweet with the image of my sculpture to all my followers and also tweeted to renowned athletes such as Tiger, Roger, Rafa, Serena, Caroline, LeBron, Artists too like Bob, Bryan, Mick, Bonnie, U2, and even then, PM, Stephen Harper…” I had tweeted, “Please share and let me know if and when you see my sculpture “somewhere” in the world. It has to exist somewhere.”

Lo and behold!!

How’s this for timing? On National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, 2017, I received an email from someone in Sarajevo, Bosnia. “Hey, Angus. I came across your tweet and, I think, this (picture) is what you’re looking for?” If so, I was going to buy it from someone here in Sarajevo. I want to do the right thing and see if you still want it back?”


After not seeing it all those years, you can imagine the feeling of elation within. Now, the challenge was how do I get there and pick it up? Money for sure.

Finally, as you have seen on Facebook, my adventurous story on getting there and back last week.

Since I was invited to speak on Inuit art and culture in Switzerland, I figured why not jump over to Bosnia and get my sculpture. The guy I was communicating with was only the messenger as he had said an older man had it in his house and could not speak English…and wanted $1000 just to give it to me. I tried to bargain but it was not working. There was no way but to comply…somewhat gladly though.

Along the way, as noted I had passport issues and the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade and Air Serbia staff had warned me of “shady” characters in Sarajevo...Be careful they warned. Still, I had a good gut feeling.

In the end, the old man met me in the hotel lobby as scheduled and was extremely happy with the money. We parted with smiles and a hand-shake only.

Thank you #SocialMedia, she made it home…finally. Now, peacefully this time, I watch another sunset.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Generating Genesis...

It is written…

"Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it."  Genesis 1:26 (King James Bible version)

 “Employment program helps Yellowknife’s homeless turn their lives around.”

So read the headline written and posted by a Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi on CBC News, January 01, 2019.


'"This job] gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day," says Lee Abel, one of Yellowknife’s homeless men.

A number of years ago while a Board member on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), I had advised the Board that the key to “healing” Residential School Survivors and Aboriginal people in general was to meet their need for a sense of significance. Apparently, that seemed too simple even to the then Chair of the AHF and non-Survivor, George Erasmus. My argument, in the end, was it’s all about how one “feels.”  It’s evident Lee Abel is “feeling it.”

"[This job] gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day,"

It is evident too that since the time of Genesis, man has not changed. The challenge today though is for one to find their Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

photo by Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

Although homeless, seems Lee Abel has found his Garden. How does that make him feel?
“…he likes his job because it keeps him busy and "out of trouble."

Before working with Common Ground, Abel kept himself occupied drinking to pass time, he said.

Since June, Abel has been working with Common Ground — a local initiative that employs the city's homeless. In a little over half a year, he's started to turn his life around. With his paycheques he's been able to buy new clothes and a cellphone to keep in touch with his employer.

I know for certain, the AHF spent over $400 million dollars trying to heal Aboriginal people. I know for certain too, as one who engages with the ever-increasing Aboriginal inmates in one of Canada’s penitentiaries, seems that money was wasted.

Abel said he likes his job because it keeps him busy and "out of trouble." Before working with Common Ground, Abel kept himself occupied drinking to pass time, he said.
"This keeps me out of that rut."

For Lee Abel, all he had to do was find his Garden of Eden and feel like a somebody; …he just changed his attitude and it cost nothing.

Evidently, he wants to tend and keep it too. High five, Brother!!