Rekindle offers a glimpse into how languages are vital to identity, voice and expression.

The City of Toronto recently unveiled Rekindle, a new wrap on the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square.

The new wrap was created in recognition of UNESCO’s International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022 to 2032), which focuses on the rights of Indigenous language speakers worldwide, the city stated in a news release.

Joseph Sagaj, the artist who designed the new wrap, joined city officials, Elder Dorothy Peters, young people and singer Zeegwon Shilling at the unveiling on Nathan Phillips Square.

Sagaj’s design, Rekindle, was selected by a community jury in May, the city said in the release. Rekindle offers a glimpse into how languages are vital to identity, voice and expression.

Sagaj is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) of the Sturgeon Clan and is from the remote community of Neskantaga in Northern Ontario. Throughout his career, Sagaj has felt honoured to share his Anishinaabe ancestry and heritage through art, featuring Indigenous knowledge, culture and teachings on numerous private and public commissions designing logos, murals, illustrations and painting projects for various organizations and different governments, the city said.

“Language is the essence and spirit of my identity and culture. However, it is not exclusive to the spoken word in the ways of storytelling I grew up hearing and speaking in my community," said Sagaj. "In my later years, I realized that expression and voice are also reflected in art, poetry, song, dance, and storytelling through various mediums and genres. Language is also present in ceremonies; the spirit is expressed by way of the heart and its lifeways.”

“My art renderings and what is featured here in the 'Toronto' sign is a ‘glimpse’ of expressions of these ways and reflection of values. From its presentations of syllabics, beaded designs, medicine berries, sacred scrolls, song, dance, and teachings; the seven-pointed star system of clans and governance to the 28-day, 13-moon calendar cycle; of the earth, air, water, to the sky world; of life, the androgynous viewing the vast universe, the poem, to the children, youth, young men, and women and the wisdom of our elders and knowledge holders, are the significance of our traditions, heritage and world view.”

Rekindle will remain on the Toronto Sign until the fall of 2023.

The city recognizes the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, focusing on the preservation, revitalization and promotion of Indigenous languages. In Canada, more than 70 Indigenous languages are spoken, the city said. Worldwide, ongoing impacts of colonization threaten Indigenous languages. On Turtle Island (North America), some Indigenous languages are close to extinction, some are at a vulnerable stage and some nations have only a handful of people that hold and speak the language.

The city has proclaimed the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. More information on the proclamation is available on the city’s proclamation webpage.

Residential and day schools played a critical role in the loss of Indigenous languages by banning Indigenous children from speaking their languages. The city's first Reconciliation Action Plan was adopted in April 2022 and is guiding the city's actions over the next 10 years to advance truth, justice and reconciliation. Action 17, specifically, calls for supporting the revitalization and preservation of Indigenous languages.