After a mysterious artist painted a “Skoden” mural under the Newport Bridge just outside of Brantford, question came up as to who the artist was.
On Wednesday, October 3, an email was sent to the Two Row Times with excerpts from a reflective journal written by the “Skoden Banksy” after their arrest for painting the mural. The reflective journal was described as a step included in the pre-charge program the artist was obligated to complete and the Two Row Times has allowed the artist to remain anonymous.
1. Describe the events leading up to the offence, and then describe the offence itself.
I was driving down Newport road when I discovered our old school Hip-Hop graffiti wall on the Newport bridge had been tagged over with senseless scribbles and profanities. Over the past decade this wall had the words “Hip-Hop” painted on it, with imagery of the Hip-Hop elements, as well as our Haudenosaunee flag. Furthermore, the graffiti group “Alapinta”, who painted the astounding murals found in Brantford and Six Nations, tagged their name on the top of this wall and also contributed the purple mask found on the bottom right corner. I have been told that this is a representation of a traditional medicine mask used in Chilean culture for protection. This wall has been used as the backdrop for many music videos and documentaries recorded by my friends who are also Haudenosaunee Hip-Hop connoisseurs. I pulled over to investigate further and noticed someone painted a red “Canadian” maple leaf over our Haudenosaunee confederacy flag. As a Haudenosaunee woman who inhales and exhales Hip-Hop and oxygen, I could not stand to allow such a mockery of my culture(s) be displayed any further on what is traditionally, and still to this day, considered Haudenosaunee territory. This act of bravery and creativity I committed, may be considered an offence in this program, however I consider it a moral obligation; one which has been applauded and well received by my community: Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
I just so happened to have purple, white and blue spray cans with me at the time, as they were left overs from a mural we had painted in another native territory for a community jam we hosted. Immediately, I fixed the Haudenosaunee flag. In doing so, I realized the entire wall needed to be re-done, so I took it upon myself to do that. I also noticed there was a great deal of trash all along the roadways so I took it upon myself to gather up the trash and bring it to the dumpster. Each day I visited this wall, I began by retrieving 1-3 bags of garbage then I would begin my paint session. There was also a very large fish carcass on the ground right beside the wall and it almost seemed like this fish was strategically placed as a deterrent. I know it sounds strange, but I noticed at my second visit the fish carcass was moved to an even more inconvenient spot, as if someone had taken notice of what I was doing and was playing a joke on me. I put on some gloves and moved the fish into the grass so that it could begin its natural decomposing process. I did the same for a dead bird that was in the middle of the road.
On this hot and beautiful, sunny afternoon, after clearing the garbage and animal carcasses, (and cleaning my hands of course), I busted out my spray cans and hip-hop beats to begin the SKODEN piece, above the waves and flag I had already painted the day before. On this particular afternoon, I had not a care with regards to who was watching and spent a solid 3 hours creating the outlines and filling in the letters. This is my first official graffiti piece so I wanted to spend extra time investing in the art of it and getting it right. I had gotten as far as “SKODE” when OPP creeped up on me. I had all my cans laid out, my speaker set up and my laptop on the hood of my car, which was a direct indicator to police that I was not even trying to hide anything. The reason for this is because at the time, and as of to date, I do not believe I had committed a crime or offence of any kind. As far as I’m concerned if anyone is offended by someone doing art, real art, and they are not offended by the trash and dead animals littering our planet as a result of a consumerist/trash society, well, they are in fact part of the problem, to which I say: be offended. I pray whichever Permit Patty called the cops on me gets the counselling and hugs they clearly need. Anyways, OPP initially pulled the whole “you’re breaking the law therefore you have no rights,” bit and put handcuffs on me before I talked some sense into them while sitting in the back of the police cruiser. I noted that this is Haudenosaunee Territory therefore they had no right to even practice their bureaucratic tactics on me in this location. They disagreed and said this is now Brantford jurisdiction, but our treaties [and the Haldimand Proclamation] would determine that is a lie (see Reference A). Yet, I am also fully aware that police over-exuding their power is common practice in this colonial realm, therefore I did my best to demonstrate cooperation and moral stamina. They did recognize the difference between the art I was creating and trashy spray can scribbles, and even stated that what I was doing looked far better then what was there before. They also noted that the world has become a dump and it is very disappointing. I was happy to see we could find SOME common ground to work with. They made me enrol in this program, let me keep my paint and notified me that during these hours it’s typically “Brantford people” who are driving by and they are a lot less likely to appreciate my art than the Six Nations people who are typically on these roads in the evening time. So naturally, I couldn’t leave the piece unfinished. I went back twice that day to work on it and several times over the next week. In doing so, I made sure to watch my back and keep my painting sessions short, to leave enough time for heat to die down in the event the cops would get called, yet again, by another permit patty.
2. Name the people you know about the incident. Describe how each of them reacted.
I was the only one who painted, there was the dead fish, the dead bird, the
OPP and a mix of onlookers from either Brantford or Six Nations. There was a few Brantford people who got offended honking their horns and waving their hands, and a bunch of Six Nations people who put thumbs up out their windows or stopped by to say things like “Good Job” and “Respect”. Two Row Times published a picture of the wall on the front cover of their weekly newspaper and wrote a few articles about it. Countless Six Nations community members stopped by to take selfies with the wall and I’ve seen many people posting positive comments regarding the piece. Six Nations Marketplace created a SKODEN selfie contest on social media and gave out a $50 gift certificate for the selfie that got the most likes.
My reaction was obviously positive. I’m assuming the dead fish was happy to have waves painted above its head, giving it a slight vibe that its back home, or in the least was happy to be returned to the grass rather than baking on the hot pavement. Same with the bird.
As for OPP, I truly believe they were, underneath all their programming, happy to see someone committing a crime that is beneficial for community rather than the typical destructive crimes they have to witness on a daily basis.
Oh, and the cherry on top was an elderly white man who stopped by on my final day of painting in an attempt to save me from my own painting. He drove slowly giving me the side eye and came out waving his finger saying “I hope you’re not ruining that beautiful work of art.” I assured him I was not there to ruin it, but to add to it. I was writing the words “Protect the Sacred” on top. He had many questions and I took the time to inform him on the symbology of the piece. Notably, the common question non-natives ask is, “what does SKODEN mean?” I told him it means “let’s go then”, followed by a giggle and he defended, “well I don’t know your language!” LOL.
Skoden is not a traditional native word, but rather a slang term only natives know, and it is entertaining for us all. I informed him further that the waves represent the River and I am writing “Protect the Sacred” because this is what I want us to collectively do: Protect the Sacred. Water is Sacred. Our Rivers are Sacred. Our Fish are Sacred. Our Birds are Sacred. Our traditional ways are sacred. Hip-Hop, in its truest form, is Sacred. It is time we all rise to protect what is Sacred so that our children can blossom into their fullest potential, or in the least, be given a chance to LIVE. Then he asked, “what is the Wu-Tang symbol there for?” To which I replied, “Wu-Tang is for the children.”
As space is limited, more excerpts will be released next week.