Exquisite beaded creations string together beauty and life

- Tara Sharpe

Lynette La Fontaine, Two-Spirit Otipemisiwak Artist, Kokuminawak Sakihitowin Kayas Ochi (Grandmas’ Love From Long Ago) (naming credit: Dianne Ludwig), wool, seed beads, dyed caribou hair, dyed whitefish scales, 2021.
Lynette La Fontaine, Two-Spirit Otipemisiwak Artist, Kokuminawak Sakihitowin Kayas Ochi (Grandmas’ Love From Long Ago) (naming credit: Dianne Ludwig), wool, seed beads, dyed caribou hair, dyed whitefish scales, 2021.

Carefully crafted creations of exquisite beadwork – moccasins, masks, doll, cradleboard, purses, moss bags, hair ties and more – are featured in a new exhibition at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery Downtown. On Beaded Ground explores the essential role of Indigenous artists' creative practices in the reclamation and renewal of culture, identity, stories and teachings.

On Beaded Ground opened April 21. It is curated by Lorilee Wastasecoot, Ininew (Cree) of Peguis First Nation, who is a UVic alumna (BA ‘17) and Legacy’s Curator of Indigenous Art and Engagement. She was interviewed for CBC Radio’s “All Points West” on the exhibition and what it means to her.

Wastasecoot shared with CBC writer Jean Paetkau that the beads in the collection “come together to create something that is whole and meaningful and beautiful, and the process of beading is medicine. And through the beading, the artists heal and become whole again.”

The beaded artworks carry stories and transmit memories, legacies and narratives between people across time and space. The selection reflects the current proliferation of artists beading on this coast and explores practices past and present.

The people who are making these things are Indigenous women. That information gets lost or it's not considered important to be recorded and passed along. So that's how the erasure of Indigenous women and Indigenous artists happens with historical pieces and collections.

Lorilee Wastasecoot, Ininew (Cree) of Peguis First Nation, in a local media interview about the exhibition

Featured artists include Margaret August (Coast Salish), Daphne Boyer (Métis), Cedar Circle Leadership Group, Whess Harman (Carrier Wit’at), Bev Koski (Anishinaabe), Lynette Lafontaine (Nehiyow/ Michif), Maxine Matilpi (Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw), UVic alumna Nicole Mandryk (Anishinaabe/Ukranian/Irish) (BA ‘19), Audie Murray (Michif), Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse (Upper Tanana) and UVic PhD candidate Estrella Whetung (Anishinaabe) who is also an alumna (MA ‘10, BA ’08).

Legacy Downtown, UVic’s free public art gallery, is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays with a full covid-related safety plan in place.

Interactive public series on beading

UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries is also hosting a series of online events celebrating beads and beaders through this spring and summer.

Yesterday, May 6, the first event – “Potlatch Punk and Contemporary Beading” – opened Legacy’s virtual series with three artists who are featured in the current exhibition (Whess Harman, Audie Murray and Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse). Last night, they beaded, shared stories and discussed their work in On Beaded Ground.

Everyone is welcome to register for the online events and encouraged to bring their latest beading projects to the gatherings.

Upcoming in the summer series:

  • On June 3, a talk with Cree-Métis writer and award-winning poet Gregory Scofield, a professor who teaches Indigenous women's resistance writing and material art in UVic’s Department of Writing. Scofield practices traditional floral beadwork and will be joined that evening by colleague and artist Sherry Farrell Racette from the University of Regina to present “Kitchen Table Talk: The Beauty of Beading;”
  • On June 17 and 18, Nicole Mandryk and Lynette Lafontaine will teach an Indigenous beading workshop to make a beaded flower;
  • Later in the summer, Legacy will also feature “Bead ‘n’ Bitch” with Dayna Danger and Nico Williams.
The series will conclude on Sept. 9 with a final event, “Fostering Indigenous Cultural Practices through Museum Collections,” moderated by Michelle Jacques, chief curator at the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, with artists Daphne Boyer and Bev Koski alongside Maureen Matthews, curator of cultural anthropology at the Manitoba Museum.

Visit uvic.ca/legacygalleries for more info about the series and to register.

Legacy Art Galleries

UVic has more art on view in public spaces than any other Canadian university. At any one time, there are approximately 2,000 works of art installed from more than 19,000 pieces in the university’s overall art collection.

But the art on campus is not about decoration. In particular, the Indigenous art is chosen to provide learning opportunities about Indigenous ways of knowing.  Cultural and academic collaborations – intended to incite conversations about art and relevant social issues such as gender and cultural representation – are vital aspects of the ongoing work of Legacy Art Galleries.

Legacy continues to partner in artistic and community collaborations that reflect diversity and explore important ideas and today’s most pressing issues, as well as enhancing engagement with communities through programming – such as the event series which kicks off May 6 – and a perpetual array of compelling and educational exhibitions.

Stay tuned to Legacy’s events and programs page for future offerings.

Learn more


In this story

Keywords: art, Indigenous, community, alumni

People: Lorilee Wastasecoot, Gregory Scofield

Publication: The Ring

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