Every Bead a Breath
Every Bead a Breath
Handmade Mask by Adele maskwasowiskwew Arseneau
As an indigenous woman, I’ve largely passed through this existence feeling like I have no voice. Most of my art has been focused on creating around the endangered stories of others, to put them up on the proverbial soapbox, making them personable and real. It never occurred to me to tell my own story, with its roots so intertwined with this land now called Canada. All of my portrait carvings reflect this journey, with most of them only having the suggestion of a mouth. My hands do the speaking as they create the pieces I make. Using everything I am given, like my kohkoms before me. Appreciating the materials, and the memories they bring. Each piece is like a reflection, capturing a moment in my life. Beading my anxiety away, each bead a breath. Each stitch sewing me back into my culture, bringing with it remembering, intertwining me with my roots, making me stronger and more whole. Several elements come from family stories, the arrow sash – to remember how my family stood alongside One Arrow and his Nation before the territories became Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Buffalo hide to remember the bull taken at Pink Mountain where my father was Captain of the Hunt. Abalone buttons passed down through the family from mother to daughter, traded from the coast to the prairies, and now returned. Horsehair and flower beadwork to honour my nehiyaw mother and my Métis father. Ocean Jasper and the blue palette – as air and water walk hand in hand and we cannot live without either. Everything has a place in this world, like beads – we do best when we are put where we can shine. It’s all part of a larger picture, this is how something small can impact something larger than ourselves. We all need to tell our stories because someone out there needs to hear them.
Adele maskwasowiskwew Arseneau, is an emerging nehiyaw (Cree) – Métis visual artist. Creating traditional and contemporary beadwork, along with carving red and yellow cedar – she tells stories to engage audiences around social and environmental issues. This is her language and these are her stories.