Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone & Veronica Johnny
This July 1, we’re celebrating some of the Indigenous artists who are part of our community as mentors in our Mentor in Residence program.
As settlers in Tkaranto, otherwise known as The Meeting Place to some Indigenous groups who have lived here for over 15,000 years, we are lucky and grateful to be able to live and work on this territory and learn from the many Indigenous people who help make Toronto the beautiful vibrant city it is for newcomers, settlers and Indigenous peoples from across the world.
Meet Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone!
Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone (she/they) is a free spirit and allows each individual to be the guide for their own discovery and journey on mother earth. She is of mixed ancestry and brings many bloodlines and heritages together in a holistic way to teach and support all beings. Aqua is particularily passionate about working with Indigenous and Queer folk, as well as all marginalized communities and people who don't always feel welcomed or accepted in many of society's circles.
She has a philosophy that music is the universal language of love, however she is coming to realize that all artistic expression is varying forms of love. Aqua has many years of experience mentoring people inside and outside of the artist community. This is an honour and a rewarding role to play as she shares her life experiences in a very truthful and powerful way. She understands that self-belief, worth, and radical self-love is where it all starts.
Aqua’s thoughts on mentorship:
"Mentorship to me means sharing life experiences with those who are open and interested in learning and growing from those life experiences. Mentorship is an incredibly transformative experience as I always come away learning more about myself, humanity, and this life. I am very proud to call myself a mentor as I've been given so many great opportunities to be a mentee. My experiences as a mentee were not just enlightening, they were also heart nourishing. I couldn't believe that people who had already figured it all out in their career and industry were happy to go back over those details and learnings with me, who was about to embark on that journey. I believe this is a role I intend to continue throughout my earth walk, as I believe we were always meant to learn from and with each other as a community."
Reflections on Indigeneity
“I am unique as we all are. I am a free spirit and am learning to really believe that I am FREE. As an Indigenous person who has survived trauma, I am learning that I do not have to do anything I do not want to do and I can absolutely give myself the life and childhood I never received. This openness has allowed me to dive deeper into creation and I have begun painting with watercolors, expanding my art to new forms of expression. I offer a unique perspective as I do not look solely at the art or the career or even just the artistic aspect of the person, I look at the whole. This allows me to mentor and aid in a more holistic way. I'm also my own boss. As an IndigiQueer person of mixed ancestry who identifies as a lifegiver, this is incredible! I am out of the system and no longer take orders from anyone who doesn't respect my entire being and existence.”
Advice for her younger self
“I wish I knew about the power of my mind and thoughts, how easy it is to doubt and have negative thought patterns which bleed into my life and reality. As a person who is living with PTSD I see the true power and gift in being present, something that is quite difficult while having PTSD. I see what an untamed mind can do...run circles around any issue without ever giving the person a release and relief. Now when those thoughts of self-doubt come I go back to my teachings and practice of being in the moment because I truly do not want to steal from the present just to look back at the past or peek into the future.”
Recent projects include…
“I am so excited to be a part of Native Earth Performing Arts and Buddies In Bad Times 2-Spirit Cabaret as a part of the beautiful Pride celebration running from June 24th-June 27th 2021. My piece is called LIFEGIVER. It is an intricate dance to my original song WOMAN where I embody the oppressive nature and experience of being a lifegiver on this earth right now. Throughout the piece you as the audience have the opportunity to bear witness to the expansion and transmutation of my pain and trauma into freedom with the help of my traditional medicines and animal spirit helpers.”
We are endlessly impressed by Aqua’s calming yet energizing energy and have already learned so much from working with her. You can stay up to date on her artistic practice by following her Facebook page at facebook.com/aquamusic.ca.
Meet Veronica Johnny!
Veronica Johnny (she/they) is a two-spirit, multi-disciplinary, Cree/Métis Indigenous artist. Veronica is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation; and presently lives in Northern Ontario. From humble musical beginnings, Johnny has emerged as a dynamic force in the Canadian music & arts industry, working as a performer, producer, manager, promoter, writer, arts educator, workshop facilitator, speaker, entrepreneur, youth mentor, cultural knowledge keeper, and Cree language advocate. She is a singer/songwriter, contemporary Indigenous hand-drummer and also the frontwoman, vocalist, co-producer and manager of The Johnnys. Known for their high-energy performances, The Johnnys are an Indigenous-fronted, rock'n'roll band based in Ontario featuring all original music. Veronica has become a seasoned performer as both a solo artist and a member of groups, amassed studio experience on either side of the mixing console, manages several artists & facilitates various workshops for hundreds of people, each year.
Veronica’s thoughts on mentorship
"I've mentored others to help them to advance their mindset in business and help change their perspective about their abilities.
Mentoring is about helping others through listening, asking questions and coaching. The goal of mentoring is to help others figure out what is important to them. I also focus on improving mental health and self-image, and also to save money, time and energy - for living life."
Advice to her younger self
"I wish I had learned to believe in myself and put full efforts into my own passions and inspirations, much earlier in life."
Catch her next at…
"My rock band, The Johnnys, just released Leathers and Feathers (Reprise) which speaks to the fantastical celebrations during Pride. Has there ever been a Pride party without some leathers, feathers and fun music?"
We couldn't agree more! We've had the pelasure of learning from Veronica since she opened our Emergence Symposium in 2018 and are endlessly in awe of how much she gives back to community through her creative and care practices. Stay informed about upcoming performances by The Johnny's by following facebook.com/veronicajohnnymusic and checking out their website at thejohnnys.com.