A new mural in Keremeos helps to tell the history of the Similkameen people.
Located in downtown Keremeos on the side of Okanagan-Similkameen Community Acupuncture building, the new work of art contains captikwl, traditional Syilx stories.
Artist Madeline Terbasket took to social media this week to celebrate the completion of the mural, which she described as important to her.
Her painting now joins another work of Indigenous art, adjacent on the same wall.
“The design is inspired by Capcikw, which is an Okanagan legend about how bear gave his life for the people to be, to have food,” said Terbasket.
According to the Okanagan Nation Alliance, captikwł are a collection of teachings about Syilx/Okanagan laws, customs, values, governance structures and principles that, together, define and inform Syilx/Okanagan rights and responsibilities to the land and to their culture.
“They teach us about how to be in the world, and our values,” added Terbasket.
The mural was funded with the help of the Community Foundation of the Okanagan Similkameen, through their Neighbourhood Small Grants.
Terbasket explained that in the mural, the sun around the bear is like a den, which represents its protection. After growing up in Keremeos, she used this mural as a way to not only tell the story of these teachings, but also of her childhood. The sunflowers represent the youth who grew up in Keremeos.
“A lot of the kids that grew up in Keremeos went to Cawston Primary (School) and were called the sunflower kids, and I just wanted to include that,” she said.
Terbasket was herself, a sunflower kid. She has fond memories of her childhood, and still remembers the song they would sing at their school assemblies. She said it was a special thing, graduating with same individuals she went to primary school with.
“It’s a beautiful place, and I feel really lucky that I got to grow up here,” she said.
After graduating school, Terbasket pursued acting in Vancouver, which resulted in her becoming well known as an artist not only among Keremeos locals, but also elsewhere.
In addition to painting, the performing artist tells captikwl stories locally and abroad, and also takes part in burlesque and drag performances. She has performed at many burlesque festivals around the province.
In 2019, she appeared on Tedx, where she spoke about how captikwl brought her back to life, and how play and laughter were a critical part in her journey back to health.
When Terbasket was growing up in Keremeos, she said she remembers only one mural in town, which carried very colonial values. She said she is proud to see more Indigenous art in town.
“It makes me so proud. I didn’t grow up with murals in town that were about the Similkameen people. It just makes me so proud that our people have a whole wall now about who we are, and we get to see ourselves,” she said.
Integral in the creation of the mural, Terbasket explained, were several youth and adults who helped her paint; Shianna, Shawnisha, Jashona and Jayden, Tammy and Shay. She thanked them for their support.