New ‘The Keepers of the Land’ mural comes to life at the BCIT Burnaby Campus

The ‘Keepers of the Land’ mural

A major new mural depicting a sea and sky-scape of the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh will soon be unveiled at BCIT’s Burnaby Campus. The beautiful piece entitled ‘The Keepers of the Land’ is by Kelly Cannell, an artist from the Musqueam Nation who has produced many pieces of prominent public art around Vancouver.

Talented production artists from the Vancouver Mural Festival recreate the design as a mural – a process that takes around two weeks. Read about Kelly’s artistic decisions behind the mural:

Artists rendering of the Keepers of the Land Mural - NW6
Artists rendering of the Keepers of the Land Mural – NW6

“This story tells the woven history of the land and its surroundings. Together, the three host Coast Salish nations are proud keepers of the land. It is my intention to capture our connection to this beautiful environment. When creating this design representing the Coast Salish Peoples presence was important. We as Coast Salish people identify ourselves by where we come from.”

The mural contains several distinct motifs: the eagle, the raven, a repeated triangle known as the mountain and valley motif, and two salmon.

“I have chosen to use the raven and eagle to symbolize the vision of BCIT. The raven is known as a mischievous and curious creature and symbolizes knowledge, prestige and a truth teller in visions. The eagle, one of the highest regarded symbols of the local First Nations, represents respect, honor, strength, courage and wisdom. Together the birds take flight from the mountain with their wings soaring over the sea.”

Kelly explains, “directly in the middle of this mural is a triangle. In our culture, a repeated triangle in weaving designs is known as the mountain and valley motif. Shown here alone is my representation of the local mountains. This solitary triangle also symbolizes the three host nations united as one. The wings of the birds become the water of the Salish Sea. Below are two salmon, a staple to Coast Salish food and culture. Presented in pairs, salmon represent good luck and symbolize life, prosperity, abundance, and renewal.”

Representing Indigenous culture at BCIT

‘The Keepers of the Land’ will cover the entire wall of building NW6 – overlooking the newly completed Beedie Plaza, gateway to our campus. It will compliment the other Indigenous design elements nearby, such as the Indigenous paving pattern in Beedie Plaza, the Indigenous glazing motifs on the windows of the adjacent Health Sciences Centre, and the Indigenous mural inside the building.

BCIT Vice President of Campus Planning and Facilities, Danica Djurkovic, adds, “We are thrilled to be able to have this mural displayed in such a prominent location at the Burnaby Campus. We seek to represent Indigenous culture in our buildings and public spaces because we believe they should play an important role in creating awareness and understanding around Truth, Reconciliation, and Indigenization. We’re very grateful to Kelly for producing a work that is thought-provoking as well as beautiful”.

You can find more information about the mural including Kelly’s Artist Statement, and a location map, on the Vancouver Mural Festival App.

Learn more about the mural as featured on Global News.

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