12 Lessons Un-Learned for 2017

As a foundation dedicated both to reconciliation and the practice of social innovation, McConnell believes that individuals and institutions must develop the capacity to unlearn.

In 2017, as Canada marks its sesquicentennial, many Canadians struggle to square the revelations uncovered in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission with national myths about the moral virtue of Canadians. Dealing with these competing narratives is uncomfortable, but the ability to unlearn legacy beliefs is an essential capacity if we are to decolonize our institutions, our country and ourselves.

Unlearning is a skill we need for reconciliation but it has a broader application, too. When we can humbly ask “what if I’m wrong about that?” transformative innovation can follow; to conjure forth better paradigms, we have to let frames that once gripped us fall away.

In this year’s installment of 12 Lessons we are focused on lessons unlearned, sharing small and large efforts to challenge the deeply held beliefs that stand in the way of a better world.

We were lucky to collaborate with Métis artist Rihkee Strapp to re-interpret the written lessons and give them visual life. Our ideas were reflected back to us, transformed through metaphor and narrative allusions. Many of the images defy any easy explanation and Rihkee has asked that we sit—sometimes rather uncomfortably—with the sensation of not fully understanding. Relaxing our grip on our own interpretations to make way for a very different outside point of view has been a difficult but nevertheless rewarding process.

We hope that you find lessons that resonate with your own experience and that you will reach out to us over the next year with your own unlearnings.

Artist’s Statement: Lessons Unlearned

The power of stories and how we contain or tell those stories have been a continuous source of exploration in my work as a socially-engaged visual artist. I am most interested in creating works that are playful, transformative and challenge assumptions. Using the Woodland tradition of mnemonic painting, vivid colours, and legend, I draw from a legacy of painters from Treaty 3 Territory, where I am from, and Bawating, where I currently live. I am very privileged to work on this project and have the opportunity to shape many of the images in consultation and collaboration with so many people between the worlds of the McConnell Foundation and my own communities. Some of the images in 12 Lessons Unlearned 2017 are inspired by the late Cecil Youngfox, and others by recent desecration of sacred sites, reminding us that there is still a lot of unlearning to be done.

– Rihkee Strapp
Rihkee Strapp: is Wolverine clan and a Metis artist from Red Lake, Ontario.



See this year’s 12 Lessons