May 11, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 6 - Ihtsipatapiyoop [Creator], 2014

(I'm going to make a concerted effort to getting back to a graphic novel a week. Really oughtn't be that hard, but we'll see how it goes.)

It's not often (okay, maybe never) that one walks past a table at a comic convention and sees free graphic novels. So when it happens, I take notice. As I strolled down one of the artist alleys at this year's Calgary Con, I happened across Brian Batista's table, and was drawn in by his fantastic visions of Hindu deities. I picked up a print of Ganesha (Opener of Ways), and chatted with him for a bit about pop culture, the academy, and the lovely nuttiness of the convention. And then I had to double check and ask if the two stacks of graphic novels he had on the table were actually free.

Mr. Batista works with the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth, meshing education in art with traditional stories and knowledge to produce graphic novels. One of the products of this collaboration is the graphic novel Ihtsipatapiyoop, a tale of the power of art to create, and recreate, the world we live in. The story is told both in one dialect of the Blackfoot language and in English, providing a nicely fluid linguistic representation of the harmony that is sadly lacking between Indigenous and Settler cultures in this country. The variety of young artists on this book (Christian Boulet, Maria One Spot, Christiana Latham, Samuel Bighetty, Garry Geddes, Mitchell Poundmaker) manage to avoid the troubles often associated with an artist's jam, and demonstrate the ways that different perspectives and styles can mesh into a whole that is greater than the sum of it's parts. There are moments in the piece, marking the transitions from one artist to the next, where their art overlaps, and it's a technique that works remarkably well in the context of the tale. Also of note, from a technical vantage point, is the complete lack of panel borders in the work. Moments flow into one another, and this very simple erasure of one of the fundamental elements of graphic storytelling reflects a much more holistic world view. It also reminds us that, narratively, the whole of what we are seeing is flowing from a paint brush, and eschews boundaries in a way that only liquid can. Equally inspired by mainstream comics, manga, and traditional Indigenous art, the journey of the artist Sage to rediscover her world and her traditions reminds us all that the past, the present, and the future are fundamentally linked, and that we are all responsible for creating our own realities. While explicitly speaking to the concerns of Indigenous peoples here in Canada, and more broadly the world over, this message of self-creation is a vital one for everyone. We are all the artists of our own realities. It's easy to forget, and very often hard to remember. A graphic novel like this one helps remind us.

I have a couple more graphic novels produced through USAY, and they both include discs with recordings of Elders telling the stories upon which the graphic novels are based. I'm hoping to be able to find links to the recordings online somewhere once I get to those GNs. Have a look at both Mr. Batista's site and the USAY site for more information on this and other similar projects. A very cool story by some wonderful young artists.

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