Mazinbiige Indigenous Graphic Novels Collection was developed by the first Indigenous Library Services Librarian, Camille Callison, and is located in the Reserve area at Elizabeth Dafoe Library. The collection provides students with an unconventional way to explore Indigenous stories and combat stereotypes.
The collection's launch took place on November 13, 2013 at Elizabeth Dafoe Library located on the Fort Garry Campus of the University of Manitoba.
The Mazinbiige Indigenous Graphic Novel poster is of Kagagi from the comic Kagagi: The Raven illustrated by Jay Odjick, a writer and artist from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community. Jay worked as a producer, designer and writer on the animated television series based on Kagagi which aired on APTN.
“Mazinbiige Indigenous Graphic Novel Collection houses titles about Indigenous people with many written and/or illustrated by Indigenous authors and illustrators that use the comic book format to tackle some heavy subject matter. They have a place in writing and they address many serious issues in our community, including bullying, suicide, AIDS and residential schools, etc. The items are a mix of ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of work in this genre as are appropriate in their description of First Nations people and then there are the stereotypical renditions of Indigenous peoples where they are not portrayed accurately or respectfully.” Camille Callison, Indigenous Services Librarian and founder of the Mazinbiige Indigenous Graphic Novels Collection.
The Mazinbiige collection (Mazinbiige is an Anishinabe word meaning beautiful images and writing) supports an Indigenous graphic novels course developed by assistant Prof. Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and taught for the first time more than a year ago. The course, offered again in January, challenges students to analyze various works and also write their own; three of them have since published their graphic novels.
Sinclair describes this literary style as a vehicle for “self-determination.”
“They are the most innovative writing system,” he insists. “Book text is limited in its ability to offer images. And paintings are limited by not offering text. Graphic novels break all of those conventions.”
And this form of literature—a collaboration between an author and artist—can be a powerful tool. “They are a culmination of the control that Indigenous people have over their own images and what is said about them,” Sinclair says. “It’s the most revolutionary text there is.”
Sequential art first developed in North America at least 50,000 years ago and took the form of pictographic writings by Indigenous Peoples on rock faces, in the sand or carved in Birch bark.
The graphic novel genre is gaining legitimacy in literature, Callison says. Written by Indigenous authors, graphic novels are addressing some critical issues in Canada today and offering an engaging medium for teenagers and young adults to explore.
“It’s critical that when people are getting a degree in literature they understand this is a genre that is crucial and important for our society today. They have a place in writing,” says Callison. “And who doesn’t love comics?”
Revised and updated from the original article, “Connecting through Comics”