November 30, 2023

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Image source: Erica Commanda

Anishinaabeg: Art and Power, is an impressive exhibit being showcased at the Royal Ontario Museum until November 19, 2017 which features artifacts and contemporary art that tell the history of the Anishinaabeg People. The exhibit was curated by Anishinaabe historian, Alan Corbiere; Woodlands-style artist, Saul Williams; and ROM specialist Arni Brownstone. At the opening reception, MUSKRAT writer, Erica Commanda spoke with some special guests to hear what their favourite pieces were. You still have time to check this special exhibit out to find your own favourites!

Saul Williams, North Caribou Lake First Nation
“I interpreted Norval Morrisseau’s painting as basically saying you are what you eat and it’s passed onto your children,” explained Williams. “I find it very interesting that there are so many different ways of looking at that picture. That’s very powerful and that’s one of his earliest paintings back in 1916. Then, Blake Debassige is demonstrating what’s happening to our young people today. Where he lived, something was happening to their young people.” Williams posed with Thunderbird Woman by Norval Morrisseau and Woman in White Buckskin by Blake Debassige. The tragic event Williams referred to was a series of suicides of youth from Wikwemikong First Nation in the winter of 1975-76.
Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of New Credit
“My favourite part was the power that hits you when you walk into the room with a certain sense of sadness, hope, and instant reconnection to the past of our culture and history,” explained Laforme. “This represents a chance for Canadians to get a glimpse of our history as well as an opportunity to learn more of the Anishinaabe of these lands.” Laforme posed with Sitting White Eagle’s Outfit.
Jenny Blackbird, Nehiyaw/Suomi Iskwew
Blackbird’s favourite piece was Sacred White Animal with Medicine Bag because of the significance of the white buffalo in Indigenous cultures. Many stories of white/albino animals transcend Indigenous communities. These animals are considered sacred and are not meant to be hunted/hurt.
Shandra Spears Bombay, Rainy River First Nation
Bombay chose Western Ontario Dance Outfit as her favourite because the outfit is from the Manitou Rapids First Nation, close to her home community. The outfit is what Anishinaabe people would wear as formal wear in the 1850’s symbolizing their determination to continue their traditional ways after being forced to settle on reserves. At that time their casual dress grew similar to that of the European settlers.
Alan Corbiere, M’Chigeeng First Nation
Corbiere chose this Norval Morrisseau and Christian Chapman pair, installed beside each other. Shaman, to Corbiere’s left is inspired by Morrisseau’s belief that he himself was a Shaman, who was gifted dreams from the Creator to give life to his paintings. Future, is a mixed media creation with Chapman blending an image of a British royal with Woodland style aesthetic.








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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as Associate Editor for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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