WE’KOQMAQ: Michele Sylliboy wants people to know Mi’kmaq people have always had the hieroglyphic language.
Sylliboy, an Aboriginal woman who was raised on unceeded territory in We’koqmaq First Nation, is launching her first book that blends her modern poetry, photography and Mi’kmaq (L’nuk) hieroglyphic poetry.
The release of her book, Kiskajeyi – which translates to “I Am Ready” – is timed to coincide with the 2019 year of Indigenous languages, and the launch of her Mi’kmaq hieroglyphic art exhibit at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.
The international year of Indigenous languages is a United Nations observance that aims to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of Indigenous languages across the world, with an aim to establish a link between language, development, peace, and reconciliation.
Sylliboy gathers much of her inspiration from personal tales, the environment, and her L’nuk culture. Dating back over 13,000 years, the hieroglyphics (Komqwejwi’kasikl) dominated the landscape of the seven districts of the L’nuk Nation prior to colonization.
“My ancestors used the hieroglyphics as maps and to record tribal records,” Sylliboy said. “The photographs in this book are recognition of land and how the Komqwejwi’kasikl language comes from the land. The importance of saving our water and our lands in the time of resource extraction is critical.”
Kiskajeyi is only the second publication ever of the translation of the Komqwejwi’kasikl, which had a 329-year gap from when the Roman Catholic Church published translations of their prayers in the 1690s.
Sylliboy is determined that generations and future generations will bring the Komqwejwi’kasikl back into everyday life.
She indicated it’s in the moments of joy and excitement where she realized people are hungry for this to stay alive, as they want to know their language, they want to understand it, and they want to use it.
“It’s essential for everyone to know this language exists,” Sylliboy said. “And at one time it was the only written form of our language.”
In addition to being an artist, author and photographer, Sylliboy is also a PhD candidate, working on her Philosophy of Education Doctorate Degree, where she will combine her artistic background and education by creating a L’nuk Komqwejwi’kasikl curriculum with L’nuk elders.
The launch of Kiskajeyi was held on March 31 at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design in Sydney, which coincides with a larger exhibit which includes her photography and whale bone sculptures.
Sylliboy’s book launch tour will see her venture to Halifax on April 11, Charlottetown on May 7, then she’ll head overseas to the University of Waikato, in Hamilton, New Zealand June 26-29. Finally she’ll embark on a fall tour in 2019 taking her to Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver.
Kiskajeyi was published by Rebel Mountain Press out of Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, which only published five or six titles a year, and can be purchased for $19.99 through their Web site: https://www.rebelmountainpress.com/purchase-kiskajeyi—i-am-ready.html.