ROMPER REAL TALK: NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
Today in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day, and Indigenous History Month, we’re celebrating Indigenous histories, cultures, and creators!
In our commitment to double our work with Indigenous creators from all backgrounds this year, we’re using our platform to amplify the voices of Indigenous artists, creators and activists we admire and are grateful to learn from.
Thank you to @jasmine_shawnaf for allowing us to share her beautiful piece honouring herself and her ancestors. We chatted with Jasmine/Shawna Farinango, a Canadian and Indigenous artist. Jasmine uses art to understand, explore, reclaim and celebrate her Indigenous identity. Read on to get to know Jasmine!
For our readers who don't know you, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Imanalla Mashikuna, Hi friends! My name is Shawna Farinango also known as @jasmine_shawnaf. I am a Kichwa digital creator from the northern part of Ecuador but was born and raised in Canada. My work is inspired by the resilience of the matriarchy in my life. Through my artwork, I try to deconstruct the narrative that has been imposed on my community and myself by showcasing my experience of what it means to live in a brown Indigenous body. I use illustration, graphic design, and photography to explore the complexities of beauty standards, societal norms, and misrepresentation of warmis (women) in my community. My art has been a form of self-reclamation, finding my power, and most importantly, strengthening my identity.
How and when did you start making your beautiful art?
Since I was a child, I always knew that I wanted to create something that would bring Indigenous, especially Kichwa representation to the world. I would make videos, draw and write about my culture and consider the impact of having my work show up in spaces where I had previously been excluded. It wasn’t until college that I felt truly inspired to create something that would represent my identity. I was given an assignment to create an app that would help solve an issue that negatively impacts individuals and their community. The first thing that came to mind was the loss of language: I thought it would be great if there was an app that allowed Kichwa youth to learn our native language with engaging, colourful visuals. My art is born out of the need to reconnect to my Indigenous identity, while honouring my ancestors and being proud of who I am.
What inspires you to create?
I find this question tough to answer because there are a lot of things in my life I draw inspiration from. If I were to choose two main sources of inspiration it would be the matriarchy in my family (my mom and my sister); both have guided and taught me how to navigate life as a Kichwa woman. I think about their joy, wisdom, and strength and how fearless they are when faced with adversity when I am creating. The second thing that inspires me would have to be nature, especially flowers; flowers are special to me because they are a symbol of healing and beauty and are always present in my art.
As an Indigenous person and a Canadian, how will you be honoring National Indigenous Peoples Day?
I believe that it is important to uplift and support our relatives that were on these lands first as much as we can. When honouring Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, it’s extremely important to acknowledge and educate ourselves on the various issues that negatively impact their communities, such as MMIWG2S (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit Folks), access to clean water, Residential schools, forced sterilization, racism and discrimination. Honouring a community should be done by listening to their lived experiences, supporting their artists, influencers and business owners, as well as donating to organizations and charities that support Indigenous peoples.
You’ve shared on your Instagram about your mixed ancestry, how has growing up away from your territory influenced you or your artwork?
Being Kichwa and born and raised away from my territory (Ecuador) hasn’t been an easy thing to accept or understand. As an adult, I understand the struggles that my parents went through as Indigenous people of a country that had limited opportunities for them. I thank them for the sacrifices they had to make for my sisters and I to have a different life than they did. When asked how my experience as an urban Kichwa has influenced my artwork I think about the steps my parents took that allowed me to attend school and create art in my free time. My work seeks to share this experience and create visibility for myself and others who have been excluded. The characters in my drawings are meant to depict the complexities of what it means to be a Kichwa woman living outside of her territory.
What do you love most about your Indigenous ancestors and heritage?
When I think of my ancestors, I think about their resilience against those who tried to silence them, and I thank them for the courage that they had when defending their rights. Their actions allowed future generations to have the right to vote, access education, wear our traditional clothing, speak our language and have the liberty to practice our traditions. I love that my ancestors, grandparents and parents try to teach my sister and I our traditions despite the trauma and pain that was inflicted upon them for being Kichwa. It brings me joy knowing that I have inherited the knowledge and teachings of my ancestors and I know that I make them proud. As an act of love for those who are no longer with us and to my family, I hope to carry those teachings to future generations, just as my loved ones did for me.
When you aren't creating digital art, what do you do for fun?
When I’m not working on my art, I enjoy making TikToks, getting my nails done, doing my makeup and watching true crime documentaries.
What does your idea of a perfect Saturday look like?
Every Saturday I go to an artisan market in Otavalo (where I'm from). It’s close to my house and coincidentally happens to be one of the largest artisan's markets in South America. This market has a variety of beautiful handmade Indigenous arts and crafts. This is usually where I spend most of my day looking at what these talented artists have created.
What other artists and creators are inspiring you the most right now?
As an Indigenous creator, I believe that it’s important to support fellow creators because we all have different experiences and stories to tell. I highly encourage you to indigenize your feed and follow and support these amazing creators:
Eli Farinango (@elifarinango)
Glenda lissette ( @glendalissette)
Faith Campos ( @faithcampos)
Shayla Stonechild ( @shayla0h)
Adrina Smith ( @wekontash565)
Angela Camacho ( @thebonitachola)
Shina Nova ( @shinanova)
Michelle Chubb (@Indigenous_baddie)
Tia wood ( @tiamiscihk)
We’re so grateful to you for allowing us to share your artwork on our Instagram page, can you tell us a bit about what inspired the piece?
“My Ancestors Guide Me” is a piece that honors myself and my ancestors! In this piece, I tried to capture the influence that my ancestors have in my life and how I embody their strength and resilience. During quarantine and the on-going pandemic, I had a lot of time to reflect on what my identity means to me. During this time of reflection, I found myself braiding my hair and I would remember the times my mother would braid my hair before school. As a child I hated having braids in my hair because I would be made fun of and called names for looking “too Indigenous” —these sacred Kichwa cultural traditions became something I hated! I didn’t understand the importance of our hair and the resilience that it held. This illustration depicts embracing and acknowledging the presence of my ancestors and my connection to my identity and territory. Although it was painful to revisit those past traumas, it was important for me to be able to heal and accept my Indigenous identity.
Thank you for sharing your art and your story with us, Shawna! To see more of her creations follow along: @jasmine_shawnaf. Whether it’s doing some reading, or connecting with an Indigenous person in your life, we hope you find a way to honour this day!