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Indigenous artist ponders colonialism and reconciliation in VIU exhibit

Daniel R. Elliott of Stz’uminus First Nation presents ‘Winds of Change’ at Malaspina Theatre

An Indigenous artist is hoping to promote understanding with a new painting exhibit that reflects on colonialism and reconciliation.

From Oct. 1 to 13, painter Daniel R. Elliott of Stz’uminus First Nation presents Winds of Change at VIU’s Malaspina Theatre. Elliott will be present weekdays from 1 to 4 p.m. to talk to visitors about the exhibition, which he said is his first in Nanaimo in almost 10 years.

In a VIU press release, the exhibit is described as examining “the impacts of colonization and how healing can be achieved” and features work depicting “pre-contact scenes, to the impacts of colonization, to the artist’s vision of how reconciliation can happen.”

“My art is about helping people forge a new relationship…” said Elliott in the release. “I want to explore how this healing can happen, how we can bridge Canadian educational structures with Indigenous knowledge, how we can find a way to put that together in a good way.”

VIU’s office of Indigenous education and engagement is behind the exhibition. Its director Sharon Hobenshield said the recent uncovering of unmarked graves at former residential school sites has motivated people to learn more about residential schools and the impact of systemic racism in Canada.

“This exhibit is a powerful medium for people to learn and, more importantly, feel,” she said in the release. “Engaging with the emotional and uncomfortable is necessary to action reconciliation and I am grateful to Dan for being willing to share his journey in this process through his art to inspire change.”

Elliott has worked with Indigenous youth and people in the corrections system, is a trained counsellor through the Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre and a National Native Alcohol and Drug Prevention Worker at Stz’uminus First Nation. Regarding Winds of Change, Elliott said “I’m not just coming at this as an artist, but as a counsellor and a healer and a medicine man.”

“This pain and trauma and some of these really troubling historical pieces are tempered with hope and love and compassion,” he said. “And so they’re fused together in a powerful way because I’m not here as an artist to create a guttural response and to leave people in this horrific state of feeling hopelessness. I want people to feel hopeful about this body of work.”

WHAT’S ON … Daniel R. Elliott presents Winds of Change in the Malaspina Theatre Lobby, VIU Bldg. 310, from Oct. 1 to 13, weekdays from 1 to 4 p.m. To book group or school tours hosted by the artist, contact

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Stz’uminus artist Daniel R. Elliott examines his painting ‘Red Herring,’ one of the pieces on display in his Winds of Change exhibit at VIU’s Malaspina Theatre. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)