Sharing knowledge through animals and art

An ethereal landscape fills a first-floor hallway at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

At the far left, a bison greets the sunrise. Animals are woven in throughout the tableau, with a sky that turns from day to night in a swirling bloom of colours.

The busy corridor—typically full of students taking a break from their work at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre or rushing to class—has now become a conversation starter as people stop to remark on what used to be a blank wall.

This mural is a work of art by painter Jasyn Lucas and his partner Nicole Brightnose.

The pair travelled from Thomson, Man., where they work as artists and operate an art gallery. Their painting’s purpose is to tell a story about Indigenous teachings using the animals that represent those lessons.

“We really wanted to create an interactive mural. We’ve got people not only just enjoying the imagery, but learning some of the symbolism behind it,” said Lucas, explaining that each spirit animal depicted in the mural represents one of the seven sacred grandfather teachings.

The buffalo on the left of the mural represents respect, the turtle stands for truth, the wolf for humility and the eagle for love. The bear represents courage while the beaver stands for wisdom.

One tiny figure is hidden in the trees—this final creature of the seven is not an animal, said Lucas, but a special shapeshifter that can come in several forms. Some know it as sasquatch, but he calls it a Sawbay or Sabe—which stands for honesty. This “trickster” character is a mischievous being that represents unexplained experiences.

“A lot of people have their own meaning, depending on where they’re from and their background,” said Lucas of his interpretation of the teachings.

Read the full story at WCVM Today or see how the mural came together, below.

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