Installation 1

Portia “Po” Chapman
Indigenous Resurgence
Celebration Piece

Studio Photos: How I Made
“Blossoming Beyond the Box”

Although many viewers of this piece envision this piece to be a direct opposition to colonial institutionalization, I was first inspired to create “Blossoming Beyond the Box” as a conceptual piece expressing my struggle to fit within the confines of other peoples perceptions of me as a woman reclaiming my Indigenous heritage.

On both sides of my family, our Indigeneity was not something made public.  My mom’s family seldom spoke of their Indigenous roots and my dad’s family privately celebrated their Indigenous roots.  The European colonization of Canada resulted in efforts to change or vanquish First Peoples.  

As a result, our rich Indigenous heritage was stripped from us.  How awful it felt to keep secret my life with little forest people and nature.  When the ancestors called me into the woods to celebrate life outside the colonial perspective, I felt alive.  When I’d share my experiences with others with non-Indigenous background, I was often ripped apart, made fun of, being delusional, and even accused for misappropriating my own culture.

The frameworks of the colonial perspective grouped together stereotypes within which I did not belong.  Shortly before my grandfather died, he told my family that it was safe now for us to publicly celebrate our Indigeneity.  But when I did, I faced my greatest hurdle, the colour of my skin.  The perspective that I needed to match in order to fit the colonial perspective was to have brownish-red skin.  As you can see, my complexion is very pale.  Because of my white skin, non-Indigenous people accused me of faking my Indigeneity.  There were days that my Indigeneity was being challenged 3 or more times.  I found myself being tortured within the confines of a colonial perspective – the perspective that I could not be Indigenous because of my skin colour.  

Luckily, I have a supportive family and received a lot of support from local Indigenous women.  I knew that as long as I tried to fit or I was forced to fit within that white box, I would never bloom.  I needed to break free from the perception and embrace the unique person who I am.

Creating this piece, was an adventure of self-discovery, strength and celebration.  Even the hundreds and hundreds of bark pieces that I collected from the ditches outside Kingston, were once again adorning a tree – no more were they abandoned somewhere along the roadways.  

 Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have found their personal messages upon viewing “Blossoming Beyond the Box.”  

If you look closely, the outside of the box has polished, white, perfect rectangle bricks all laid in logical order.  The inside, however is sheathed with broken greying shards of bricks and the tree is pushing its way out.  For me, those shards represent the struggle I faced as I screamed: “Set Me Free.”  I broke down as I reached the end of the construction.  I tied the last blossom on the branches as far from that box I could.  In that moment, I found myself back in the forest – back in harmony with Creation.  I knew that I would forever be: ME!

Creation Process & Construction of
“Blossoming Beyond the Box”


Kingston, Ontario, Canada