Aboriginal art welcomes patients at Abbotsford Cancer Centre

Metis artists Savanna Todd hopes to add to healing atmosphere

Metis artist Savanna Todd stands with her painting now on display the Abbotsford's Cancer Centre.

Metis artist Savanna Todd stands with her painting now on display the Abbotsford's Cancer Centre.

A painting hanging in the Cancer Centre at Abbotsford Regional Hospital will send a welcoming signal to aboriginal patients – a message they may not have received from health-care facilities before.

The painting – depicting two Metis youth holding hands and facing a full moon over a rocky landscape – was unveiled last week as part of a province-wide program to introduce aboriginal art into BC Cancer Agency locations. The program is a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority, the Metis Nation of B.C. and the BC Association of Friendship Centres and the BC Cancer Agency.

Metis artist Savanna Todd, who painted seven of the paintings soon to hang in cancer centres around B.C. including Abbotsford’s, was at the unveiling ceremony to describe her work and its meaning.

She intended to make a painting with “an atmosphere of healing” that invokes “hopefulness and joy.”

Todd said she left the identity of the subjects of her painting intentionally ambiguous.

“I wanted people to be able to connect with it – particularly aboriginal people,” she said. “Hopefully this piece, and all the other pieces created for this, when they’re hung will show [that] we see each other and we’re here and in whatever way we can, we’re supporting one another.”

The cancer agency’s director of indigenous care, Preston Guno, said Todd’s painting and others serve to raise a flag, showing aboriginal people who don’t trust health-care institutions or feel welcome in them that they have been heard and changes are being made.