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Youth centre now home to Strong Elders mural

The final mural from the Strong People, Strong Communities project has been unveiled.
The Strong Elders mural, which can be seen on the exterior of the youth centre at 4903 50 St., is the last of the murals to be created through the Strong Peoples, Strong Communities project. Ethan Butterfield/NNSL photo

The final mural from the Strong People, Strong Communities project has been unveiled.

Located at the youth centre in Yellowknife at 4903 50 St., the Strong Elders mural is the sixth one that the organization has fostered.

RELATED REPORTING: More murals emerge in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilǫ

Strong Elders, like the previous murals, was designed with the goal of creative inspiration.

“We hope that this inspires more public art in our community, and that this really inspires youth to be artists in the community,” said Mahalia Yakeleya-Newmark, who co-founded Strong People, Strong Communities with her sister Kalina Newmark.

“Every single one of the murals is really a powerful piece on their own. They all have so much, not only artistic talent, but just the teachings and the stories behind them all make them so meaningful,” Yakeleya-Newmark said.

The Strong Elders mural depicts an elderly woman standing behind a girl. Strong People, Strong Communities describes it as “our matriarch, once a brave youth herself, takes her place passing on traditional knowledge to the next generations. The youth with moccasin-clad feet planted on the ground is physically and symbolically rooted to the land and tradition of our cultures. Her thick braids show her vitality and strength as a young woman. She bears traditional face markings of her ancestors, a sign that she is of age and ready to do her part in her family and community.”

Despite the high-profile artwork created in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilǫ, Yakeleya-Newmark believes there’s a bit of a misconception regarding the project.

“I think a lot of people were mistaken in that they saw the project as being an organization,” she said. “Actually we’re not, we’re just a collective of people who wanted to create something beautiful in our community.”

The choice of the youth centre as a location came about from Strong People, Strong Communities wanting to display the murals in community-based organizations.

“Places of hope and beauty — so we thought that this was a great location, just the power of our youth, being future leaders in our community,” said Yakeleya-Newmark. “We use that phrase a lot, future leaders, but our leaders, our youth, are leaders already.”

Those behind Strong People, Strong Communities are thankful and proud to “bring this project to life,” especially when it almost wasn’t a reality.

“There were a couple of points during this project where we thought we were going to have to let (it) go,” said Yakeleya-Newmark. “Because of all of the changes and pivoting and constant adapting that we had to do with Covid, there was a couple of times where we really, seriously thought about letting it go.”

Through community and volunteer assistance though, the dream would become a reality.

“I just really want to… express that gratitude we have to everybody who helped us, who volunteered and, literally, like put in their time and effort,” she said.

Yakeleya-Newmark added that she encourages people to follow their dreams.

“You have a dream, and your job is to share it with other people,” she said. ‘When you share it with other people, there will be other people who step forward to support you.”