MUSKOKA – Muskoka artist Nathalie Bertin has stamped her cultural heritage on two new collector coins for the Royal Canadian Mint.
“It’s very much an honour to be able to claim this as a legacy,” said an excited Bertin. “I can’t explain the feeling when I saw the actual coins.”
The Métis artist, who incorporates elements of her French and Algonquin heritage into her work, designed a holographic collector coin depicting the Great Hare for the mint last year as part of a series called Northern Lights, which celebrates aboriginal myths about the aurora borealis.
And now she has two new coins.
The first, depicting a howling wolf, is an extension of the Northern Lights series, which has since been expanded to include three coins.
The second, depicting an eagle with outstretched wings, is for a new seven-coin series called Seven Sacred Teachings, which honours the aboriginal cultural cornerstones of respect and sharing.
Bertin said she was asked by separate project managers at the mint to participate in a design concept competition for each series. Several artists submitted designs to a jury and hers were chosen.
She said the themes of each series have personal meaning for her.
“The theme for the Northern Lights stories is special because it allowed me to research traditional tales from the north. It’s a personal interest of mine to preserve these types of stories for future generations,” she said.
And she said the Seven Sacred Teachings theme is important to First Nations people.
“These are the philosophies of life, otherwise known as Grandfather Teachings. Words to live by,” she said. “It’s a tremendous honour to be able to interpret them artistically and to play a part in bringing these teachings to the general public.”
She said each series took careful reflection on her part, as it was important to her to interpret the themes respectfully.
Bertin said the designs in the Northern Lights series are more whimsical.
But she said she wanted to convey designs for the Seven Sacred Teachings series that were universal enough for anyone to reflect on the images, clearly interpret the messages and impart their own feelings on them.
Bertin said it is an extraordinary feeling, not only have collectors purchase her work, but also to have her cultural heritage preserved and shared.
She said a 14-year-old from the United States wrote a review of her first coin on the mint’s website.
“He tells about how he bought the coin with his own hard-earned money to give as a gift, but decided that he loved it so much that he was going to keep it. My heart melted,” she said.
Bertin said she hopes as a working artist the coins will be a success, but she also hopes people like and cherish the designs as well.
“Not just because it’s my imagery, but also because of the themes or stories they represent,” she said. “They deserve to be retold for generations to come.”