If you’re on the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Langley campus, you may notice some new artwork in the courtyard. The pillars in the centre courtyard now have Indigenous art created by Kwantlen First Nation artist Brandon Gabriel.
“Aside from the University having Kwantlen as its namesake, and Kwantlen being my ancestral nation, I have also designed the centre image of the KPU Coat of Arms in 1998. I was still a high school student back then. Then I studied at KPU from 1999 to 2003 as a student,” says Gabriel.
“So, I have had a long personal history with the university that I am very proud of. That connection, combined with my ancestral pride, are my biggest inspirations for the artwork.”
The discussions to acknowledge Indigenous heritage at KPU started in the President’s Diversity and Equity Council. First came the Indigenous language signage around KPU with translation from Fern Gabriel, a member of the Kwantlen First Nations and art by Brandon Gabriel.
KPU President, Dr. Alan Davis, asked Gabriel for more ideas.
“He and I walked around the campus one day and we identified the pillars as one option, to tie in with the sign on the overhead walkway. Then he went away to design something, sourced the company to make them and we watched it all happen,” says Davis.
For the pillars at Langley, Gabriel says he drew inspiration from his background but also the art he’s already designed for KPU.
“As seen in the 1998 Coat of Arms, I tell the story of the wolf. It is an important symbol to the Kwantlen people, as it is our Nation's clan Crest. It represents teaching, learning, hunting, and community.”
There are plans to add more art to honour and acknowledge KPU’s namesake and surrounding Indigenous communities.
“As we move east to west across our campuses we want to add more signage and consult with the local First Nations to add additional exterior and significant art,” says Davis.
“I was brought forward as part of this beginning stage to integrate Indigenous artworks at KPU campuses. The surrounding First Nations communities will be part of that, which is much deserved and a long time in the making,” adds Gabriel.
Story by Sucheta Singh