Student wins national Aboriginal arts competition

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 22, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Kecia Cook was presented with a $2,000 prize at a special event held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
Kecia Cook was presented with a $2,000 prize at a special event held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Photo courtesy of Historica Canada

An art piece that brings together the worlds of traditional and modern indigenous medicine has earned student Kecia Cook a national arts prize.

She won top prize for her age group at the 2016 Aboriginal Arts & Stories youth arts competition for her piece titled “Maskihkiwiwat” - which is Cree for medicine bag. The piece is crafted by hand bead on moose hide.

Cook has completed her third year as an indigenous social work student at First Nations University of Canada. She's also a student assistant at the U of R’s Aboriginal Student Centre.  

Medicine Bag
This piece by Kecia Cook is titled “Maskihkiwiwat” - which is Cree for medicine bag. Kecia is from the Misipawistik Cree Nation in Manitoba.

“When I heard I won the award I broke out in tears and called my mom. I never thought it would be me, because there are so many young and talented indigenous artists out there. I am just very grateful,” says Cook who is from the Misipawistik Cree Nation, Manitoba.
“The medicine bag I created came from the heart and expresses the walk between both worlds for indigenous people, traditional and contemporary,” says Cook whose award includes a $2,000 prize. “Medicine can be very powerful in great ways, but it can also be very harmful. There are many meanings behind this piece of art and I think it can speak to everybody in different ways.”

In her own words. Kecia delves deeper into the meaning of Mashihkiwiwat.

The Aboriginal Arts & Stories awards are a national competition for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Youth. Competitors are asked to write or produce a piece of art on an aspect of their culture or heritage. The judges include accomplished authors, artists and leaders from Canada’s Aboriginal community.

They include Drew Hayden Taylor, Maxine Noel, John Kim Bell and Brian Maracle. The competition is organized by Historica Canada, the largest independent organization devoted to enhancing awareness of Canadian history and citizenship. 

Cook, along with winners of other prize categories (art and written), were honoured at a special event held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
Cook has been a volunteer at the Aboriginal Student Centre, acting as an ambassador to the Centre and the University of Regina, promoting services and programs available to all students.

Says Cook: “Art has been a gift of mine since I was young, but I have chosen a different path for a career -  but who knows what the future holds for me and art.”

The Aboriginal Student Centre assists Aboriginal students in areas that include a successful transition into university, participation at university events and successful completion of studies.