Feb. 28, 2023

SAPL exhibition weaves Indigenous knowledge into design, planning education

Opening night event March 16 launches exhibition that seeks to spark discussions on role of education in path toward decolonization, reconciliation
Urban design studio participants, whose work makes up the upcoming SAPL exhibition Education for Reconciliation
Urban design studio participants, whose work makes up the upcoming SAPL exhibition Education for Reconciliation. Urban design studio

Decolonization manifests in different ways but requires active engagement. At the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape, it does so by weaving together Indigenous ways of knowing and living into the design and planning of curricula. 

An upcoming SAPL exhibition, Education for Reconciliation, being held at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, reflects this. It will showcase student work from the urban design studio, an interdisciplinary course that took place in the spring of 2022 and that sought to bring an Indigenous lens to all aspects of design, teaching and learning. 

From drawings, models, and collages to an interactive piece created throughout the course, the Education for Reconciliation exhibition illustrates how learning and teaching spaces can be activated to renew relationships with Indigenous Peoples and how to walk a parallel path together to create more inclusive, mindful, and respectful universities.  

“At its heart, the exhibition tells stories about the conversations the students and the Elders had and acknowledges the importance of starting new conversations and how we can move toward reconciliation,” says Dr. Fabian Neuhaus, PhD, associate professor at SAPL and course instructor. 

For Neuhaus, the exhibition is also a demonstration of SAPL’s willingness to create new leaders in our field through a process of reconciliation. 

“Embedding Elders in the learning process is not very common practice, and we want to showcase what that looks like, what it requires, and what it means to us.”

Illustration by Erin Schwab

Illustration by Erin Schwab.

Erin Schwab

Taught by Neuhaus, Hal Eagletail (Tsuut’ina Knowledge Keeper), and Sven Kohlschmidt (planner from Urbanista in Germany), and supported by Sandra Abegglen (SAPL researcher), the course focused on Baukultur. This refers to the human activities that shape the built environment —  as a culture of building,  and  the building of culture.  

Throughout the course, Indigenous Elders worked with students, providing inputs through meaningful conversations that brought awareness about Indigenous ways of knowing and living. 

“When we create awareness about things that people don’t know, we give them the opportunity to have clarity and direction on the way things should move forward,” says Elder Gilbert Crowchild from the Tsuut’ina Nation, who provided input during the course. 

“It also opens the door for better communication for both parties, and that communication allows for openness and insights into how things are going to be accomplished. It’s something that is worthwhile.” 

For Eagletail, sharing knowledge serves not only to understand the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and settlers, but also to teach the importance of being in balance with all living creatures. 

“As an example  — if the hummingbird migration overlaps with a new community development, and we’re destroying its habitat, we need to enhance the ecosystem and replace it with the proper plants and flowers to save that habitat,” Eagletail explains.

Smudge Ceremony by Shannon Giesbrecht

Smudge Ceremony by Shannon Giesbrecht.

Shannon Giesbrecht

“If we overlap the migrations of these living beings and help them survive by planting and demonstrating care for their environment and balance it out, that, to me, is reconciliation. To me, SAPL is attempting to do just that.” 

The exhibition was made possible by a 2022 Intercultural Capacity Building Grant, awarded through ii’tah’poo’to’p, as part of the Indigenous Strategy of the Office of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Calgary. 

The curation and realization of the exhibition was led by students from the course, including Pallavi Singh, Talia Mimura, Nissmah Atif, Alima Pal, and Simran Chowdhary.

Exhibition opens March 16

Education for Reconciliation will be on display at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning from March 17 to April 6, and students, the greater University of Calgary community and the public are invited to attend the exhibition opening on Thursday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by a publication of the same name, featuring the contributing Elders and selected student work.

Register for the opening night event.

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