After taking his art in, I picked up the show catalogue and read the piece written by David McIntosh. There was a part in it that particularly resonated with me. For purposes of this post, I’m only going to share that specific portion (quoted from page six), but if you ever have the opportunity to read the whole catalogue, it will give better context.
“For Robert, a more meaningful concept than forgiveness is pahgedenaun, an Anishnabe term that translates roughly to English as “let it go from your mind” and which appears in the painting titled people in Sandy Bay Residential School 1. Pahgedenaun is a self-defining and self-determining act while forgiveness is an act of submission to the will of others”.
As a child sex abuse survivor, I’ve always struggled with the idea of forgiving my abuser. I have no problems with the concept of forgiveness when it comes to friends or family who may have done something to hurt me (there is trust and love in those relationships). But I do have a major problem with forgiving something (or someone) that is simply unforgivable.
Still, over the years I’ve been told to forgive. Not for my abuser’s sake, but for mine. I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around that though. I completely agree with the need to heal and move on, but I don’t agree with ‘forgiving’ a violent act.
That is why reading that piece resonated with me so strongly. I can very much agree with “letting it go from my mind”. It puts me in control of me. It allows me to take my power back. If I can do that successfully, the automatic reactions that I continue to have 30 years later, will hopefully stop. I’ll be able to fully reclaim my body, heart, mind and soul.
Yes, pahgedenaun is now a special word for me. I just wish I knew how to pronounce it properly. If anyone Anishnabe is reading this, I’d appreciate some help with that!
FYI, the School of Art Gallery at the University of Manitoba is located in the new ARTlab building (180 Dafoe Road). The Robert Houle exhibit runs from September 7 to October 12, 2012.