This week was all about girl power, family power, empowerment and telling stories that are important to us and our communities. Watching Leah Dorian speak to her art and tell her story of why she painted this series was really powerful – I loved how passionately she spoke about the feminine energy and the need to empower women and celebrate coming together and reclaiming power and space. I was taken aback when I walked into the gallery space – the whole exhibition together was breathtaking. The combination of colours and imagery, although not significant to my own culture, was so strong and powerful. When I walked in, I felt represented and safe even though it was not my story or my peoples story. Leah made her life and community accessible to all and I feel like that is what “good” art does – it may not make us comfortable, happy, cheery, etc. but it invites us in and tells us a tale. I had so many favourite pieces from the show but I have chosen to focus on 2 and how they connect to the readings from this week. I have chosen 12th Moon and 5th Moon.
When I was reading the conclusion of Life Stages and Native Women, “Building the Layers: Building on the Strengths of the Past to Take Us into Future” by Kim Anderson I couldn’t help but see the immense power of women in Indigenous culture and then saw that come to life in Dorian’s work. In Anderson’s article it even specifies that women who have gone through menopause “are given a new kind of respect that allowed them to move in and out of male and female jurisdictions, and they were recognized for their leadership” (Anderson, p. 4). In Western culture I feel like this is not the view of most and that as women age, they lose respect in our communities. In 12th Moon you can see the female power resonating – each woman is participating in ceremony, supporting each other, telling stories and rising up. “We live with the legacy of our colonial history today, and many of our families and communities continue to to be in a state of crisis. In spite of it all, we have avenues of hope and vision, avenues which are cultured and advanced through the oral histories of our elders.” (Anderson, p.1). I felt empowered looking at this piece as it felt like you could hear the women’s stories meshing together to tell one story – much like the activity we did with the braid. Our stories, although still separate were one – entangled but not lost in one another. In the context of the Donald article, “the ‘look’ of the braid will reflect the particular research context under scrutiny” (Donald, p. 544). The ‘characters’ weaving the braid are all very different but knowing them and their situation and position in society is important to fully understand the story the braid tells. A common thread through our readings so far is the importance of situating yourself but recognizing our connectdness- “despite our varied place-based cultures and knowledge systems, we live in the world together with others and must consistently think and act with reference to these relationships”. (p. 536).
5th Moon was the painting I was drawn to initially when Sara asked us to choose one, sketch the shapes and think about why it resonated with us. Leah said in her interview at Sherwood Library, “women need to rebond. How can we help each other and regain unity?” I believe so strongly that we can’t help anyone else until we help ourselves and the idea of connecting our minds with our hearts as Leah suggests the 5th moon facilitates is beautiful. 5th Moon suggests a duality that I connect with as well, the idea of our shadow side is intriguing and encourages me to consider myself in another way. In “Life Stages and Native Women” it says, “In the infant, toddler, and early childhood years, gender was apparently not a significant factor in terms of identity or experience.” (Anderson, p. 3). Although I didn’t necessarily view the painting with that in mind, it was interesting to think of that duality within ourselves and how it seems like less of fixation in Indigenous cultures than Western culture. 5th Moon asks us to reach the point of self actualization and that’s hard work – to conclude, Anderson says, “one of the most devastating consequences of inter-generational trauma is ‘learned helplessness’. Over time many of our people have lost the ability to see how they might change their circumstances for the better.” (Anderson, p. 10). 5th Moon to me, represents part of the journey to reconciliation by healing yourself from the inside out by confronting the dark and working through it to see change.
In this short Youtube clip where Leah speaks more about her art, she says that above all, even though she is a multidisciplinary artist who paints and writes and does music and movement, she is a storyteller. She uses art as a way to share her stories and her communities stories with the world. “Metissage, as research praxis, is about relationality and the desire to treat texts – and lives – as relational and braided rather than isolated and independent” (Donald, p. 537). This is respect that stories deserve. Leah has shown me that our stories can be told in many ways and that it is our duty to tell them and keep our people alive. “I encourage each reader to dig out the medicines that suit his or her needs, and continue to dig, as there is so much more to learn.” (Anderson, p. 1). Our stories allow us to filter the world through what we know.
Thanks for reading,
“Educating the mind without educating the heart,
is no education at all.” – Aristotle