Five Sm’algyax words and images light up the space inside Charles Hays Secondary School’s multipurpose room.
Tsimshian artist and Sm’algyax teacher, Kelli Clifton, spoke to high school students on Friday, May 4, about the nearly finished mural and being a First Nations artist on the North Coast.
“We’re using images that I originally designed for a poster project that connected French language with Sm’algyax, with intention of having more First Nations content in the French classrooms,” Clifton said.
The project started nearly two years ago, and it was so well received it grew into the mural project.
Elders were consulted to ensure they had the correct spelling of the Sm’algyax words: lax yuup, nda’aamx, ama goot, wilwilaaysk and łoomsk — nature, reconciliation, kind hearted, family and respect — words that Clifton said we should carry with ourselves every day.
Clifton created the designs that were drawn out onto the walls and students have taken the time to paint them.
On Friday, her message wasn’t only about the mural, or sharing the words, she wanted to inspire young artists. Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Clifton earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria and then studied at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art in Terrace, and her career continues to blossom.
“I just think it’s really important to have artwork from our area be as present as possible and hopefully this is really inspiring to them to have a young local artist come in and have their work projected at a large scale like that.
“You can really do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” she said.