Okanagan/Syilx visual artist Sheldon Pierre Louis has completed the second mural to be featured in the upcoming Making Waves Mural Festival, set to take place at various locations over the Labour Day weekend.
The first mural for the fest went up at the Legion over a week ago, and there is still one more to be created before the festival kicks off.
Louis created his first murals over 20 years ago for a mural fest in Vernon and he typically produces at least one or two murals each summer, although much of his time is taken up with various commissioned works.
In conjunction with his partner, the multi-disciplinary artist is currently working on a didactics project for BC Parks that will be featured at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park; elsewhere in the province he is also working on a large Interior Health project that will include 12 canvas paintings.
In addition to a constant stream of commissioned work, Louis is also serving a third council term for the Okanagan Indian Band.
Louis’ water-themed mural can be found on a wall of Peachland Pharmacy; it was sponsored by the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA).
Louis became involved with Peachland’s mural festival after the PWPA approached him to see if he would be interested in creating something around water and water protection.
Louis was familiar with the organization, having once attended a PWPA engagement session at the community centre and joined them for a subsequent site visit to the watershed.
“We too, as political reps, fighting for our water is something we do quite often, fighting for our watersheds, plus my work has been centred around salmon for maybe the last 10 years,” Louis told the View.
“My family have ancestorial connections to one of the hereditary salmon chiefs, who is directly related to the Armstrong family in Penticton, so learning that history and understanding the importance of the Columbia River and then, as history went, understanding the impacts of all of the dams on the Columbia River, how it impacted our salmon . . . with this mural I wanted to show the protocol of giving thanks to our four food chiefs, and the salmon is one of our four food chiefs.”
Louis said the watershed alliance group were aware of the four food chiefs and suggested that theme also be incorporated into the mural. The completed mural features two of the food chiefs, the n’tyxtix (salmon) and siya (Saskatoon berry), which is also a representation of the youth.
The mural also incorporates the image of a young toddler making an offering to the water and salmon, which was taken from a photo of Louis’ two-year-old son.
“It drew a parallel in passing those protocols on. I wanted to share that caring for the salmon isn’t just about one generation doing it, you have to teach all generations responsibility.”
Adults carry out the protocols of offering tobacco to the water while little ones watch and mimic and learn, says Louis.
According to Louis, the salmon in Syilx culture represents the “getting it done” or “the worker” which speaks to the work and effort that is needed to care for our waters.
Louis says the theme is locally relevant as Peachland is a significant salmon spawning area.