Opening Teaching – Philip Cote

Philip Cote – Moose Deer Point First Nation
First Nations Affiliation: Shawnee, Lakota Potawatomi & Ojibway

A graduate of The Ontario College of Art and Design Cote has been at the forefront of a group of artists who are exploring new ways to imbue sculpture and painting with traditional spiritual perspectives. He was commissioned in 2002 to create a 1000 square foot mural Kiinwin Dabaadjmowin (Our Story) Mural for the Mississauga’s of New Credit First Nation. As part of the Planet Indigenous 2004 festival he was artist in residence at the McMichael Art Gallery and in 2005 Cote created a large scale mural Niinwin Dabaadjmowin – (We Are Talking) a 20-panel 80-foot mural depicting the rich history of the Anishnaabe people with the First Nations street level youth and community members. Cote’s great- grandfather is the great-grandson of Tecumseh, and Philip is engaged in exploring the importance of the Shawnee leaders’ life and spirit.

I ask himself the question “Who am I creating the work for?” Growing up in the city of Toronto, Philip found no support or positive images of First Nations culture in the school system or the media. With his work he also hopes to instill a feeling of pride to First Nations people especially youth by creating an awareness and understanding of the vital and significant inheritance they have as First Peoples. This heritage spans thousands of years. He understands the recent legacy since contact includes many ugly aspects: genocide, loss of language, forced relocation, residential schools, racism, and alcoholism to name a few. He does not want to negate these issues around the contact legacy, but instead celebrate the strength, resilience, adaptability, and truly exceptional accomplishments of the culture with his work and give it a contemporary perspective.

Philip states, Learning about my history and identity is a vital tool and is expressed in my work, to reclaim a sense of belonging and recognition of who I am as a First Nations man.

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