Having worked in various capacities related to art, activism and education, Michelle Sylliboy considers poetry and photography to be her first love. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Sylliboy is a Mi’kmaq artist who was raised in her traditional Mi’kmaq territory We’koqmaq First Nation, Cape Breton Nova Scotia.
With a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Emily Carr and a Masters degree in Education from SFU, Sylliboy is currently doing her Philosophy of Education Doctorate Degree at Simon Fraser University. Her educational pursuits are aimed at creating language revitalization dialogues to occur and in creating a change in people, which also demonstrates her commitment as an educator and a curator.
Her artistic temperament has greatly benefited the community, as she helped the emerging and professional poets and visual artists with the work she did with the West Coast Aboriginal Writers Collective in Vancouver, B.C. She helped raise opportunities of self publishing and launching “Salish Seas: An anthology of text + image”. As the Art Director, she helped arrange a successful exhibition at Vancouver’s Gaston’s Gallery Gachet, which was curated by Tania Willard.
Engaged in the community, Michelle believes in sharing knowledge with others to facilitate meaningful dialogues. Her last curatorial community event in June of 2016 “The Art of Reconciliation” brought together musicians, poets, and visuals artists to address their views about reconciliation at the Vancouver Public Library. Her poetic photography piece “The Art of Reconciliation” was a collaborative new work she did with Vancouver Opera Cellist Heather Hays. The words in Mi’kmaq describe the effects of intergenerational trauma and how it feels to be a child of a survivor. Collaborating with Heather was a way of bridging two cultures together in a contemporary dialogue through music and poetry. The images in water and logs represented the struggles we are currently having with corporations around the abuse of resource extraction. Understanding reconciliation is about understanding our roles as protectors of mother earth and how colonization and residential school shaped our ways of being today.