Maazhaabiik kwe n’dizhnekaaz, N’bissing n’doonjibaa, Ma’iingan doodem. Hello, my Spirit name is “The trail in the water that leads to the people.” I am wolf clan, from Nipissing First Nation.

Ojibway artist Shemia Nelson grew up in Mnjikaning, Rama First Nation, a reserve near Orillia ON. Her family moved to the Kingston area when Shemia was entering grade four.

Shemia has always had a passion for art, and is particularly inspired by artists such as Norval Morriseau, a self-taught artist and Residential school survivor. Shemia’s father, also a survivor, has always told her to “be the first.” As such, she is the first in her family to pursue post-secondary education and is a 2019 Graduate of the Visual and Creative Arts-Fine Arts Program at St. Lawrence College. Shemia will be attending Algoma University in the fall 2019, in the Visual Arts Program.

Shemia’s love for art makes her feel good and allows her to go to her quiet space. Art is her vessel to heal and express the feelings and emotions of both personal and inter-generational trauma. Through creating installation pieces, Shemia uses her visual voice to raise awareness about the injustices experienced by her people, while her paintings celebrate the beauty of her culture and traditions. 

Shemia currently resides and creates near Kingston, Ontario.


Title: The Teachers Desk Installation

By: Shemia Nelson 

The Teachers Desk is an installation that displays images of children at various Indian Residential Schools. Throughout the teacher’s desk drawers, you will notice pictures that include forms of punishment, and disciplinary weapons used, the clothing and uniforms they were forced to wear, haircuts they received, the classroom setting and sleeping arrangements, cleaning duties, student letters, and the remains of a survivor.  

On the top of the desk there are three poems titled, “My First Haircut”, “The Day of the Speech”, and “My Fathers Experience”. Inside the first side drawer, there is an orange shirt to represent past and present Residential School Survivors, the second drawer represents the self-help groups made available to individuals living with addictions and those living in abusive relationships. The back and the right side of the teacher’s desk represent Shemia’s fathers experience, this includes images of Fort William Sanitorium, the Tuberculosis sign, metal crib/cage, and the toilet tank. The left side of the teacher’s desk displays Shemia’s and her two sisters’ very 1st haircuts. 

This installation on The Teachers Desk, is a personal piece of mine. Please read the poems to get full understanding on the installation of The Teachers Desk.

It is estimated that over 150,000 children were robbed of their Traditional upbringing. Our people were known as savages according to the Catholic Church-run schools.  The Residential School was an attempt to “Kill the Indian in the Child,” the last school closed in 1996.


Since 1993, significance in Michel de Broin’s work lays on recognizable patterns of experience. Such borrowings from art history, allusions to social mores are not ends in themselves, rather, they produce contexts likely to prompt semantic reversals, transformations that seem to accept constructed identities only to turn them inside out like a glove through a metaphorical process potentially open. Through multiple forms and means of expression, de Broin puts irony to work in a strategy by which he first examines the possible conditions of a given context, then posits an absolute, and finally, invents an unprecedented outcome.

Born in 1970, Michel de Broin lives and works in Berlin, and he obtained his master’s degree in visual arts from Université du Québec à Montréal in 1997. His most recent solo exhibitions have been at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2006); Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec; Réparations (2006), Galerie Isabella Bortolezzi, Berlin (2005); Tenir sans servir c’est résister, BF15, parcours associé à la biennale de Lyon (2005); Galerie Pierre-François Ouellette, Montreal (2005); La Vitrine, Paris (2003); Galerie 44, Toronto (two-person show with Ève K. Tremblay, 2003); Villa Merkel, Esslingen, Germany (2002) and the Centre des arts actuels Skol, Montréal (1999).

Since the beginning of civilization, the staircase has made it possible for man to fight against terrestrial attraction by offering him the means of rising vertically. Until the emergence of the first flying machines, the staircase was the most common way for vertical ascent. I chose to use the staircase as a symbolic form, which carries out towards an ideal, towards an ultimate goal. The ascending form of the staircase has existed in our collective unconscious long before the airlines proposed to carry us into the sky. From time immemorial, one has needed great quantities of energy to fight against terrestrial attraction to rise into the sky. This is what undoubtedly makes the sky so divine and attractive. In my work AIRLINE, the intertwined staircases symbolize the idea of an effort to rise up and to reach the other. This effort makes it possible to transcend terrestrial obligations. The paths of the staircases act like an arrow thrown in the sky that twists and swirls like a airplane in an air show. The central idea symbolized by AIRLINE is the meeting of two distant worlds. At the end of a journey one becomes the other, symbolized by the central node of the work, in which circulating energy reaches a state of fusion.


In partnership with the non-profit Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth and the Katarokwi Learning Centre this birch bark canoe was built over a two week period by around 30 high school students at the centre. This experience was led by the indigenous educators Wayne Bayer with assistance from Linda Matthews, and Alfonse Trudeau from the Wiikwemkoong First Nations Community.