Anishnaabe artist named to 2023 Welcome Toronto Creators Program

TORONTO — Welcome Toronto is the product of the Raptors and OVO coming together to focus on spotlighting emerging Indigenous, Black, non-binary, female and other Racialized Groups artists between the ages of 16-29.

“In partnership with OVO, the Toronto Raptors strive to amplify diverse voices and talents in our city through art. The Welcome Toronto Creators Program is designed for emerging creators who identify as Black, Indigenous, Women, Non-Binary, or a member of a racialized group between 16 to 29 years old. The chosen creators will be have the opportunity to have the keys to our brand, and will represent the multicultural DNA of our city and team,” reads the Welcome to Raptors website.

This year, the program selected Ocean Kiana as an Indigenous creator.

“Ocean Kiana is a Nishinaabe woodland style artist from North Western Ontario raised by the Martiarchs of her family. Her Nishinaabe name is Waabshki Memegwans, meaning White Butterfly and she is of the Wolf Clan. On her home reserves Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation) and Netmizaagamig Nishinaabeg (Pic Mobert First Nation) she grew up attending ceremonies, powwows, and being out on the land with her grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, mom and sister,” reads Kiana’s website.

Kiana is currently studying to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Anishinaabe Studies with a minor in Visual Arts at Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. She worked as the K’Chitwa Kwe for Nogdawindamin Family and Community services in the Cultural Department. Working alongside knowledge holders and teachers, influencing Anishinaabe culture and identity in the lives of her clients. She also worked within the various communities of the North-shore including, Batchawana First Nation, Garden River First Nation, Mississaugi First Nation and Serpent River First Nation.

To the creators program, she comes with a background of digital art, painting, drawing, beading, and sewing. Her Anishinaabe territory, community, and identity has a strong influence in the art she creates consisting of vibrant colours, florals and woodland style dancers.

“She gives her credit to the many Anishinaabe artists who came before her, who mentored and inspired her to be where she is today,” continues the website.

“I am so excited to begin this new journey with the Raptors. To think I was just a little girl growing up on the rez, to being one of the Welcome Toronto Creators! I’m so excited for what this program is going to entail and all the awesome work that is going to happen.
AND to work alongside some amazing and talented creators,” wrote Kiana to Facebook.

Last year, the 2022 Indigenous creator selected was Kyana Kingbird. Kyana Kingbird is a 29 year-old Mi’kmaq and Ojibwe fancy shawl and jingle dress dancer, where her forms of dance are used as both textile wearable art and performance-centric.

Since Kingbird was very young, she dedicated to perfecting her craft and wanted to share her passion for dance and culture with the world. As a beadwork artist and seamstress, Kingbird takes pride in creating her own regalia for herself and her family, intertwining the beauty between dance and art. Kingbird strives to create an experience that allows those who aren’t intimately involved in the sport to understand how much heart and drive is behind it.

The continuation of beauty in regalia is hoped to be carried on by Kiana.

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