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Artist Enpaauk was a street "tagger" who now steers his talent positively. He's shown with his painting "Sea Turtle."
A tagger grows into an acclaimed artist who nurtures his indigenous culture
Andrew "Enpaauk" Dexel traces his beginnings in art to tagging on the streets of his hometown at the age of 12.
"Tagging was a way to express myself, the easiest way I could find at the time," said Dexel, better known as Enpaauk. "I could identify with the hip-hop culture. There is lots of healing through expression."
First Nations Artist Enpaauk leads a "medicine wheel" art activity
» When: 1 to 4 p.m. tomorrow
» Place: Native Winds Gift Gallery & Craft Supply, 1152 Koko Head Ave.
» Admission: Free
» Call: 734-8018 or e-mail Nativewinds1152@aol.com
It's not a form of expression that society condones, however, and neither was Enpaauk's behavior - "I was living a very destructive lifestyle consumed with drugs and alcohol."
But eventually, he managed to create a fusion of those hip-hop influences with his identity as a member of Nlakapamux nation in Vancouver, British Columbia - his art evolving into spiritually inspired abstracts and contemporary pieces that blend graffiti art and indigenous motifs.
Art has provided a means of "staying out of trouble," and he hopes to pass the message along to youth within the community. "It's important to have good role models - that goes a long way," he said.
"Eventually, I found my culture more interesting than just going out and getting in trouble."
Fittingly, the meaning of Enpaauk's name translates to "the messenger."
He says his art is a representation of himself. "My art is both colorful and playful, and it continues to mature."
The pictographs of his native culture are similar to modern-day graffiti, he said, in explaining the connection between the influences. "Like the graffiti bird versus the thunderbird."
Black and red are common to his pieces. "Red is a powerful color and used in my more traditional pieces, but the seasons definitely impact the colors."
On Saturday, Enpaauk demonstrates how to create a medicine wheel at the Native Winds gallery.
"His style is hip and happening," said Wendy Schofield-Ching, owner of Native Winds. "The vibrant colors and bold designs are rooted in tradition, yet the images are unique and delivered with a powerful contemporary energy."
In many American Indian cultures, the medicine wheel is used to remind children of basic values, to remind them of the connections linking all people, Schofield-Ching explained.
The medicine wheel is a circle divided into four quadrants, each with a color associated with a cardinal direction. Four is a sacred number to most American Indians, she added. "It represents the four cardinal directions, the four seasons and the four seasons of life (infant, child, adult, elder)."
Attendees may create their own medicine wheels to take home.
Enpaauk particularly enjoys working with youth. He created the logo for a Canadian community organization called the Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth Association and holds graffiti workshops. He's active in fundraising efforts to develop a sustainable youth art studio in Vancouver.
Recently, he helped secure a $90,000 grant for a Native Youth Arts Collective, the first of its kind in Vancouver. "We will provide lots of mentoring, disseminate art and promote youth exhibitions.
"I just want them to enjoy themselves and walk away with a good feeling - something that might help them down the road. We want to help them to identify with the art," he added. "I'd like to continue the give-and-take."