Guná - Megan Jensen | "Strong Ships Are Not Conquered by the Sea"

As a Tlingit woman, where I come from our artwork is also a form of documentation. I consider this to be one of the many works I will create to document the world we are currently living in, because there is no doubt that these extreme tests and difficulties we are living through will also be written in history books. The heartache I feel from the current events of the world was the inspirations for this design. “Strong Ships” depicts a dorsal fin moving through violent waves. The dorsal fin is symbolically us. Us artists, us students, teachers, people, humans.. it depicts how we must continue to push through trying times, even when we really just don’t want to keep fighting anymore. But we do, and we will. As an indigenous artist, when I feel like giving up, I think of my ancestors who survived genocide, plagues, colonialism, indoctrination, and loss. My ancestors suffered so much loss, yet they never stopped fighting for the privileges and rights I have now. resilience. They knew they had to keep living, and survive, and work hard, and persist in this journey of life. And I wish to do the same, and I hope you do too. 


"Self Portrait"




In loving memory of a dear friend and Emily Carr alumni, late William Callaghan


Megan Jensen (Guná) is a young Indigenous artist, dancer and a student of Northwest Coast design. Guná, is of Dakhká Tlingit and Tagish Khwáan Ancestry from the Dahk’laweidi Clan (killer whale) which falls under the wolf/eagle moiety. Her family has made the beautiful area of the southern lakes in the Yukon Territory their home for numerous generations. Megan is a recent graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, with a BFA in Visual Arts. As an artist, Megan continues to build on her knowledge of Tlingit Formline and acknowledges that this will be a lifelong endeavour. As a contemporary artist, Megan plays with the relationship of ancient Tlingit designs merging with contemporary and sometimes ironic materials, enabling her audience to reflect on the relationship of the indigenous lens functioning in a colonized, and permanently industrialized world.


“Since time immemorial our people have been malleable to the winds of change, had they not done this, we simply would no longer exist. This is about telling their story, however, this is also about documenting our stories through art, song and dance for all the future generations to come.” — Guná 


Though venturing into post-secondary school proved to be a very difficult period of Megan’s life, these tests and difficulties became the generators that would begin the next stage of her painting practice. After addressing the culturally harmful structures that exist and persist in post-secondary institutions, Megan became vocal about these injustices that both her indigenous peers and herself experienced. After years of working through critiques and presentations that too often seemed to end in misunderstanding and judgment, Megan envisioned “Self Portrait,” A pivotal and monumental piece of work in Megan’s journey as a visual artist. The painting incorporates the traditional renditions of Tlingit formline, yet it is painted and mounted by materials of colonial origin. In literal terms, this exemplifies the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people, that we will never be able to regress back to a time prior to the devastations of colonialism. We are now in a paradoxical period of reclaiming and healing ourselves, our communities – while simultaneously attempting to heal our relationship with a colonized world. These tensions are ignited through Megan’s oil paintings through the energy circulating behind the human and animal figures, perhaps it is a fire or a spiritual entity that is not bound to a physical world. Layered in the foreground are often figures who propel from the ground, pushing the boundaries of the colonial borders, yet still being “contained” within the painting. Existing, but not completely liberated. Though the contemporary colonial project continues to assume supremacy over our ways of knowing and being, we resiliently push forward without requesting permission to speak, to share our worldview that manifests in the exceptionally complex and stunning art forms of our ancestors.