Artist: Gurleen Kaur

This year's Festival of Teaching and Learning image was created by Gurleen Kaur, 2023 UASU VP Academic.

Painting Detail. Artist: Gurleen Kaur, 2023 UASU VP Academic

Painting: Acrylics on canvas.

Artist Statement

This painting starts from the connection with the land, the connection I have with the fields of Punjab and the connection the Indigenous communities have with the land which I am living on now. When I was thinking about the theme of this year’s Festival, “Traditions Re-Imagined: Learning, Unlearning and Re-learning Teaching,” I immediately thought about how nature helps us in re-imagining traditions. Any picture can be interpreted in a thousand different ways; in fact, each individual has different eyes and views the things uniquely, and so I want you to take time and see how this picture speaks to you before I narrate my mind.

Now, here’s my story of this painting: ‘learning’ reminds me of the waves in the river, small and big, emerging and taking shapes, dying and blending (integrating) into the river, the one to which they belong. Just like that, we learn, we unlearn, we relearn, and the cycle continues. We fall into the world like the waterfall in the societies and communities where we start taking shape like the waves. There, indeed, the existing knowledge prevails and guides the flow as the rocks on the banks do. I must use this beautiful quote to explain it better, “The stone carries the voices of our Ancestors. The water that once flowed under the rock was said to be the voices of our teachers and healers. In Anishinaabe culture, we call rocks our grandfather, M’Shoomisnaan.”1 Here’s another one, from Manitoba Rocks!: “However, rocks are considered to be the wisest of all Earth’s elements! After all, rocks have been around the longest, for millions, even billions of years. Because rocks are so old and have many stories to tell, Indigenous peoples sometimes call the Earth’s rocks ‘grandfathers’.”2

You can also see the footsteps in the left bottom corner and the Indigenous shoes inspiring us to continue the legacies, the ones that connect us back to the cosmic system, since in Cree language children mean stars and stars are also within the children. And now, the sky becomes self-explanatory, representing the vastness and never-ending nature of teaching and learning. Find the planets, the celestial bodies, the constellations, the stars, and your own meanings!

Lastly, some hidden secrets: the design of the shoes is copied from the pair I saw in a display at Wahkohtowin Lodge at Augustana Campus. The use of night colours (the sky, some areas of water) and the day colours (the waterfall, tree in the right, rocks on the bottom) comes from imagining people from different time zones coming together and celebrating the diversity of cultures and knowledges.

With special thanks to Victoria Delorme at Wahkohtowin Lodge (Augustana) for guiding, advising, and sharing stories, artwork, and insights toward creating this painting in a good way.

1 Anne Taylor, Kinomaage Waapkong – The Teaching Rocks.

2 Manitoba Rocks! “Grandfather Rocks.”


Artist Bio

Gurleen Kaur is an international student from Punjab who came to Canada with the passion of exploring the opportunities of learning. She loves art and admires its beauty in different forms. Most of her paintings are connected to nature, and through those paintings, she celebrates the shapes, forms, and colours that come together and soothe our eyes. Politics, journalism, art, and activism are the terms that define her interests. She believes meeting people and building relationships is the best way of learning and appreciating the knowledge that exists.

She is UASU Vice President Academic for the 2022-23 academic year. She is an Arts student and loves student governance. With the passion of upholding student voices, Gurleen has represented U of A students at the Students’ Council and the General Faculties Council (GFC) for the past year. She enjoys studying Social Sciences as she thinks it to be a good source of understanding social structures and how they evolved in history. Through student governance, she wants to ensure that students’ voices are empowered and that the university takes the steps that are in the best interest of students.

She writes poetry and articles. She likes to work with nonprofits and raise awareness about human rights. And besides that, she also loves sports - soccer, track & field, and horseback riding are her favourite ones. And above everything else, she loves horses the most!