Ashley King

Identity and Neighborhood

Black indigenous artist - Taino caribbean/connections to mohawk (non blood relations), artwork is land based- woodwork, use nature as a medium - mushrooms, weave and mend collective which is expanding into other areas to build more safe spaces like at Sketch. Do a lot of gardening, bringing in the original plants that are here and bringing back pollinators.

What neighborhood are you a part of?

Oshawa - I don't like it at all, a lot of microaggressions, racism that is subtle and backhanded - northside, close to a conservation area (turned dog park), has a lot of trees with a creek that goes through it that leads to lake ontario. There use to be a wendat settlement 2 minutes north of where I live, they found out when they were building houses on top of it - they found 3 longhouses, they took the artifacts and put them in a museums, but still built houses on it - they found it the year I was born 1993. I'm creating about it - it hurts, that they would prioritize housing than respecting the land - there is no plague anywhere, except for in a museum that no one goes to and isn't promoted.

Do you know of any rivers that pass through your neighborhood/area?

Harmony Valley Creek - very small but runs a long distance, maybe part of the marine. Where I am it is above ground, but goes underground where there is farming. It’s also larger now, I believe they are directing water from another area, the water has never been like this before. Frustrated about the changes.

Another river offshoot of HVC, it looks like they put concrete blocks in it in places. Part of same water that runs up to the wendat settlement

Wildlife reserve - lived here 18 years and never been there, but going to soon.

Use of the dog park bothers me, the water system is underground - they created their own stream, and a lot of the trees have fallen in on itself - when the water rises it erodes the banks and the roots are exposed.

Tell me about your relationship with land work and the Weave and Mend collective

If it were up to me I would be living in the bushes, that’s where I feel most at home, most relaxed. That’s where I am supposed to be - it's more than therapeutic for me. If I notice anything that seems artificial it bothers me. I love to see the different colors, shapes, seeing the animals - the owls - sometimes I just stand and listen, as far away from people as possible. Taking in everything. Sight, smells, sounds. Licen, moss. Everything is so fascinating to me. Looking into a masters program that deals with environmental therapy, getting a lot of knowledge from Mandy - using each other as a resource.

Weave and mend has really helped me get more connected to my indigeneity, my family grew up being seen as black, so acknowledge the indigeneity but only really live in what is visible to other people. I have one living relative who actually has some teachings - others have passed who knew the language. I’m looking into going back, he is from the bush so it was hard to pick up everything I didn't have a notepad - it will be something that is lost if someone doesn't take action. It's heartbreaking because this is how colonization is winning. Last year we got our first chief in Jamaica from the hummingbird clan.

When you think about your own self expression, whether it be creatively, self care, academically, ceremonially and beyond, what comes to mind for you as practices or avenues of expression?

Instagram and taking pictures, doing mini paintings of Taino symbols - mythology and stories that people tend to forget and how they are visually represented - they really have a thousand words, and it goes beyond that - into a feeling, it encompasses all your senses. There is a new medicine wheel, and i've been working on visually expressing everything they wrote out about the wheel

Places that you miss

The weave and mend garden - been really reaallyyy want to go back there now, i want to maintain the space, from over the winter, to reinforce and remediate, putting down mulch, make sure it’s being cared for, take care of it.

Jamaica - it felt like I spent 3 days in the car when I was there instead of being on the land with my family and exploring more and to learn more from my great uncle - I worry about him.