Barbara Marchand | SYILX


As a respected artist and elder, Barb Marchand had long had an interest in the history of her ancestors, their traditional language and the legends which connected her to the landscape and its inhabitants. This has led her to immerse herself in the study of the traditional Syilx  language in an effort to gain a better understanding of the stories and history of the Okanagan First Nations people and in doing so, also her own history. This exhibition builds on the oral stories and language which holds the history and culture of the Syilx people and which is nest embodied in the guiding philosophy which informs the mandate of Penticton's En'owkin Centre.

The philosophical statement of the En'owkin Centre is handed down to us from our elders. We choose to guide our future development from this philosophy.

We believe as Indigenous people, the Creator has given us a way of life and natural laws which govern our relationship to all living things. We believe the Creator has entrusted to us the responsibility of being 'keepers of the land' of living in harmony and oneness with each other; and maintaining a balance with all things in the environment.

Our knowledge and customs are understood and practiced through our relationships to our land and in the way it protects and ensures our continuance and survival. 

Our Mother Earth is a living embodiment of our spirituality and nourishes us in all ways: physical, spiritual, mental and emotional.

Our spirituality is a sacred trust. The values of our people are contained in our teachings. It is through our values that we live under instructions of the Creator that form the foundation of our survival. Therefore, our sacred responsibility is to protect our spirituality, culture and land.

As a visual artist Barbara's work explores and re-interprets the use of traditional materials to create tactile and provocative works which engage and challenge the viewer to re-examine the environment in which we all live. Using her intimate knowledge and understanding of the Syilx language and its oral history, she takes on the role of interpreter guiding the viewer on a journey of self discovery and spiritual awareness. 

The body of work speaks to Barbara's personal voyage of discovery and understanding of the Syilx language and the oral history of her ancestors. The stories as told reflect the history of the land reaching back thousands of years long before the Syilx people were given the responsibility by K'wel'ncu'tn to care for the land and all the life which inhabits it.

Being acutely aware of the difficulties presented in interpreting and translating language Barbara uses visual art to illustrate what it means to be Syilx. The works included in the exhibition are the manifestation of these ancient teachings and remind us of our creation and spiritual connection to earth. The use of materials is deliberate and reflective of the historical record and connects us to the land and our origins. Added to this is the introduction of contemporary materials which not only connects us to the past but also inserts us into the historical record creating a stark and poignant vision of where we are today. The materials used to speak metaphorically to the relationship we have to the land and serve as a reminder of our responsibility to be the caretakers of the land and its inhabitants. 

Barbara's work has been exhibited throughout British Columbia and in 2000, she received the BC2000 Book Award for her illustrations in Kou-Skelowh. In June, 2007 Barbara was honoured with one of six British Columbia Creative Achievement Awards for Aboriginal Art. She received a $5,000 award and has been granted the use of the British Columbia Creative Achievement Awards for Aboriginal Art seal to signify her creative excellence. In 2009 was also named an Honorary Fellow by Okanagan College.

Barbara is currently the head of the Visual Arts Department and the Indigenous Fine Arts Program at the En'owkin Centre. She divides her time between her workplace in Penticton and her home and studio located in Armstrong, B.C.