Artists Georgie Horton-Baptiste and George Campana welcome visitors to the opening reception of their photographic exhibit: 'Integral and Intrinsic: Mazinaakizigewin. The Art of Photography' as part of the SPARK PHOTO FESTIVAL.

Artists Georgie Horton-Baptiste and George Campana welcome visitors to the opening reception of their photographic exhibit: ‘Integral and Intrinsic: Mazinaakizigewin. The Art of Photography’ as part of the SPARK PHOTO FESTIVAL.

By Julie Kapyrka

PETERBOROUGH – Anishinaabe Kwe Georgie Horton-Baptiste and George Campana, photographers extraordinaire, share the beauty of their artistic talents at Peterborough’s SPARK PHOTO FESTIVAL. The first exhibit: “Kina Awiiya Nindinawemaaganag: All My Relations”, located at Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism Visitor Centre (1400 Crawford Drive), is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday until June 30th. The second: “Integral & Intrinsic: Mazinaakizigewin, The Art of Photography”, located at the Shandry Building (459 George St. N), is open for viewing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 12 noon to 4 p.m. on weekends until April 30th.

Visually stunning, the exhibits display photographs that open a space for the viewer to embark on a spiritual and emotional journey of the human experience and to engage with magnificent depictions of Mother Earth’s diverse landscapes. The space has been transformed into a virtual teaching lodge complete with a remarkable floor painting of the Covenant Chain and the Two Row Wampum Belt connected to a unity circle upon which stands a circular lodge. The name Mazinaakizigewin infers to images, photographs and documentation, and offers the viewer an intimate interaction with various First Nation Peoples, teachings, themes and social movements through The Art of Photography.

Audible gasps are heard as visitors enter this exhibit.

“I was taken aback when I first came in – there is so much life and history in this room. It is clear that it took a really committed group of people to put this all together,” said Beige McIntosh, a local Peterborough resident.

Visitor Matthew Olsen shared: “What moved me was to see the way the community and the exhibit and the spirit of the place all reflected one another, it was really powerful and beautiful.”

Horton-Baptiste says her inspiration emanates from growing up in a world that was divided between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – an “us and them” atmosphere that unsettled her. “For me, the purpose of these exhibits is to bring both sides together and start that conversation through photography.” She says: “I wanted to bring the faces of our people into a public place where everyone is welcome; to bring both communities together.”

For Campana, it all began with images – beautiful moments in time that captured the integral and intrinsic nature of its subjects. “You need to share these, George,” advised a respected spiritual leader. 11 years ago, these words inspired him to embark upon a photographic journey spanning half a million kilometres coast to coast across Turtle Island. He has attended gatherings with people from all over the world and participated in countless ceremonies.

Two hundred and fifty thousand images later, Campana found himself invited to collaborate with Horton-Baptiste in a visual display of their collective talents. They both firmly advocate that the exhibits are not simply about the photographs, rather they are about the pride manifested in the culture, language and ceremonies. The implicit message reminds us of our relationship to the water, to the earth, to all of Creation, and to remember our original instructions. “Most importantly,” says Campana, “these images honour the honouring.” Embodied within the traditional teachings are the ways in which people can live in harmony with one another and all of Creation.

These two extraordinary photography exhibits speak to the power of peace, harmony, and community. They share a common vision of unity, gratitude, and healing – these are spaces of “good medicine.” People of all nations are invited to come visit, to share in the unity and to engage in that conversation.