For the month of September, the DOUGLAS Hotel is featuring “The Voice,” a short animated film created by the incredibly talented Digital Design alumna Sabina Jaramillo.
Throughout the year, the DOUGLAS Hotel, a part of Marriott International, has been featuring artwork and short films by VFS students for their Storyteller in Residence program. The DOUGLAS selected Sabina’s work to coincide with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 30, a federal holiday created to recognize the impact and legacy of residential schools in Canada.
“The Voice” is a beautifully designed short film that moves the viewer from the chaos and clamour of the city to the wilderness of the natural world. Sabina draws upon motifs and shapes from Coast Salish art to depict local wildlife of cultural significance, such as a bear, salmon, and eagle.
Inspiration for “The Voice” came from Sabina’s exposure to Indigenous art while studying in Vancouver. Artwork from Indigenous communities all over British Columbia can be found throughout the city, but recognition of the artists and their nations, as well as how museums acquired the works, isn’t always addressed. Originally from Panama, Sabina felt it was important to educate herself about whose land she was now studying on.
“Indigenous art and heritage play a significant role in the cultural landscape of many regions, including my home country Panama,” says Sabina. “It's always enriching to learn about and appreciate the diversity of Indigenous communities and their multiple contributions. ‘The Voice’ was my way to pay respect and being acknowledge that I’m living in unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.”
While researching for “The Voice,” Sabina teamed up with a fellow student to learn as much as they could about local Indigenous culture, history, and traditions. Their research brought them to the Native Education College, where Sabina met Russell Wallace, an elder of the Lil’wat Nation, who is also an author, actor, educator, and composer. Not only did Russell generously share his knowledge and time with Sabina and her colleague, but he also provided narration and music for the film.
“Working with Russell was the best experience,” Sabina shares. “He welcomed us and shared every piece of knowledge about his culture. ‘The Voice’ was only possible because of him. He is the voice.”
The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation began as Orange Shirt Day, an observance created by Indigenous rights activist and residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad to promote awareness of the residential school system in Canada. The system, orchestrated by the Canadian government, saw over 150,000 Indigenous children taken from their families to have their culture and religion erased, and to be assimilated into settler culture. These children endured horrific abuses, and many did not survive. Orange Shirt Day was elevated to a statutory holiday in 2021 after the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools.
Sabina believes that learning about Indigenous history is vital for everyone, not just Canadians. “True Truth and Reconciliation is to recognize the importance of every fight and injustice that First Peoples communities are facing,” she says. “Even if you are a foreigner, it is your role to educate yourself, support, and spread the concerns of numerous Indigenous activists, artists, and storytellers who are working toward an inclusive future.”
Since graduating from the Digital Design program, Sabina’s career as a motion designer took her to São Paulo, Brazil, before returning to Vancouver. She is now a motion designer and illustrator for Digital Lab, an integrated unit of BC Children's Hospital and the University of British Columbia's Department of Pediatrics.
A huge thank you to Sabina for taking the time to talk about her beautiful and moving film. “The Voice” will be on display in the lobby of the DOUGLAS hotel for the rest of September.