In August 2020, a group including Moore, Hyggen, Bonny and others gathered in a secure outdoor space to complete the transformation of the slate steps into a weekend. This involved washing the dust off the sculptures, drying them, sanding off any glue residue from their previous life as stair treads, and applying oil to the slate.
Bonny called this final step a “beautiful transformation,” noting that the gray / white surface of the freshly carved slate comes from the reflection of light from small, loose particles. Once oiled, however, the edges take on the same hue and patina as the worn, smoothed surfaces and the sculpture reconfigures itself as part of the rock, rather than a scratched note on its surface.
“This is the same effect you see in weathered petroglyphs, where natural weathering patinas have removed traces of loose material, so images and messages seem to organically sink in or out of the stone,” she declared.
As a geologist, Bonny said it was fun to share information about the geological evolution of the Earth, the formation of slate, and the material properties of slate. As an artist and writer living in Saskatchewan, where human stories have long been told using arranged stones, petroglyphs and pictographs over 10,000 years old, she believes “to advance the stone as living and temporal medium in this collaborative project, rather than as a static support for the monument, is an organic movement towards the reconciliation of the shared spaces of the treaty.
“Bringing in Indigenous languages and the names of the moons that guide seasonal activities and storytelling traditions on campus – using stone already shaped and reshaped by student movements – is very meaningful,” said Bonny.
“The students and staff who joined us in the sculpture have a physical connection to the project, but also experienced a tangible connection to some very ancient traditions that honor spirituality and the importance of stone for various human cultures through time. I hope this project conveys a dedicated and embodied commitment to the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in our on-campus practices, and I hope it also raises awareness of Indigenous languages and the role of syllables in preserving historic languages and the revitalization of contemporary languages.