May We Have Enough to Share
May We Have Enough to Share
May we have enough to lighten each other’s sorrows…
Richard Van Camp’s May We Have Enough to Share is an irresistible photographic essay delight whose appearance is a much-needed balm that inspires and nurtures with its positive philosophy and psychology centering messages of connection, compassion, care and love for self and others. This is a book of conviction that reminds us of what we cannot afford to forget: children are the hope of the world. Underscored also are these: loving relationships are essential for all (especially in relation to the young); kind thoughts and actions are needed by and from everyone; thoughts drive actions and are interlinked; we have a shared joint destiny that is dependent on taking care of Mother Earth, and ethical caring and love are essential for mutual well-being.
The lyrically compelling colour photographs offer hopeful, endearing narratives and themes that place Indigenous children and their caregivers/families/nurturers/loved ones in positions of prominence. Accentuated here are children and younger adults (those under forty)—in a joyous, purposeful, photographic medley of enchanting, youthful becoming and engagement.
Van Camp’s board book comprises 24 captivating pages, 11 of which are beautiful, exuberant, granular photographs of an Indigenous child, in close, loving connection with a care-giver or caregivers, receiving and inspiring closeness. Each photograph is a loving and lovely social setting replete with significance and meaning the five Indigenous photographers wish to communicate about the subjects and their subjectivities and pluralities. The photographers are Cree (Alberta), Dene and Métis (Saskatchewan), Métis (Saskatchewan and British Columbia), Gwich’in (Alberta) and Inuvialuit (Northwest Territories).
The photographs are placed left and are enunciated—harmonized—by carefully chosen simple, yet powerful words on the right-side page. The first picture, for instance, (p. 1) zooms an Indigenous female smiling gently whilst closely holding next to her heart a child sleeping peacefully in a decorated cradleboard. The attendant two-line sentence on page two echoes the book’s title, stating: “May we have enough to share, to know the sweetness of every day.” These are good words to hear—words to sustain Indigenous peoples and others on the human journey, words to live by, indispensable gems of affect and knowledge. The words appear to be foregrounded on birch bark or birch bark inspired paper—another marker of an Indigenous cultural practice (e.g., of First Nations such as the Algonquin)*. Beneath the words on the right page is a beaded butterfly in geometric design showcasing the colours black, white, grey and brown. This iconic butterfly symbol, in varying colours, is repeated beneath the words found on the left of each page in this reassuring book (possibly symbolizing youth (fulness), children, childhood, innocence, playfulness, change, transformation…)**.
Page three foregrounds two young Indigenous women in ceremonial attire/regalia, full of life, pride, zest and confidence. The woman whose image dominates the page carries a baby in an attractive baby sling while she participates in a communal cultural activity. The woman holds the child closely. The youngster is also dressed in ceremonial clothing—regalia that are honorable markers of a particular Indigenous identity. The blessings on the page states: “May we have enough to share our home, our food, our stories, our laughter.” These blessings highlight the “I” and “thou” generosity being articulated by the creators. There is profound ethical power in intentionally projected words and images. They stir mindfulness about sharing, gratitude, mutuality, respect and responsibility.
Page five depicts what is stated in the blessing on page six: “May we have snuggles, cuddles, sniffs and kisses!” We see a female and child sharing “snuggles, cuddles, sniffs, and kisses!”—something we wish for all children. In mild contrast, the image on page seven shows a male in the caregiving role that illustrates this blessing: “May we have hugs to warm each other’s hearts.” The subjects appear to have strong social ties. Both are deliciously happy as they look out at the photographer and at us, the viewers.
The photograph on page nine dazzles—it is difficult to leave or forget it. Available to viewers is a close-up image of a chubby baby in headgear—a floral pink bonnet—that fits divinely. With dazzling eyes, mouth open in elation, hands clapping or reaching for the unseen object of her/his happiness, this baby is a charming heart-grabber. The companion words for this delectable image are these: “May the success and joy we see inspire our own dreams and wishes.” How fitting!
While making way through this unforgettable board book, readers encounter images and words that captivate, affirm, inspire and provide cognitive as well as emotive function for the power of loving expressions between caregivers and children.
Similar to the image on page nine, the caregiver(s) on page 18 are unseen but based on the happiness of the two children in the latter (likely a gleeful boy happily holding on to a sister or a friend), the children project their excitement and exhilaration in being together. They are contented and safe. Their laughter and smiles are enkindled by the photographer. For the photograph on page 18, the children are placed in an outdoor setting—on the land—indexical to the core values of Indigenous groups. This visual is beautifully complemented by these words: “May we have room to grow and be ourselves.” Perhaps a wish—a prayer of gratitude and a longing for the land—for the preservation of open spaces to play and grow as desired.
The penultimate picture documents a sitting female holding and adoring a/her baby in an open field surrounded by flowers and is presented with this benediction: “May we have enough to honor each other and pray for the healing of Mother Earth.” Encoded in the benediction/blessing is the understanding that much of what we have comes from the earth, a lamentation about injuries done to Mother Earth and a yearning for her rejuvenation.
The final photograph features a circle: a man, a woman (perhaps parents) and a swaddled newborn. They appear to be jointly holding the baby while looking and smiling, contentedly, lovingly at each other—a circle of loving relationality—a young family. The complementary final words for the photograph are these: “May we know love.” Every reader/viewer is likely to feel this wondrous, powerful emotion having journeyed to the end of this treasure of a book that looks in, out, and around.
May We Have Enough to Share is an excellent example of contemporary, post-colonial Indigenous textuality that affirms, inspires and aspires to show (with photographs) and tell (with words) –stories of loving relationality in and between Indigenous families and people, and with the earth, and hope for the world and her peoples. Van Camp, in collaboration with the five photographers, merits unreserved praise for this gem of a book! Perhaps, the greatest strength of this photographic essay is its contribution to ongoing reclamation of Indigenous Canadian people’s control and power over their representation in images and words. May We Have Enough to Share is a triumph indeed and one indispensable to school, public, nursery, and home libraries everywhere!
Dr. Barbara McNeil is an instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan.
*Taken with gratitude from: https://www.wyemarsh.com/traditional-uses-of-birch-bark-in-canada
** Taken with gratitude from: https://www.leahdorion.ca/symbolism.html