Anishinaabeg Manidoominensikaanag display craft at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

Bead [beed] n. An item to which the word “enough” does not apply

Photo sourced from textilemuseum.ca:   “Jean Marshall, "Ring of Fire 1" (2015); Porcupine quills, home tanned deer hide, commercial tanned elk hide, beaver fur; Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist”

Photo sourced from textilemuseum.ca:

“Jean Marshall, "Ring of Fire 1" (2015); Porcupine quills, home tanned deer hide, commercial tanned elk hide, beaver fur; Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist”

For many Anishinaabe artists, Manidoominensikaanag (beadwork), takes a central place of pride and heritage. Almost everyone has seen some kind of Great Lakes Anishinaabe or Michif beadwork at some point—watch bands, hair clips, cigarette lighter cases, earrings—the list goes on. Manidoominensikaanag is an art form, craft, and spiritual practice. Making Manidoominens (seed/spirit beads) is a very old craft. Anishinaabe beads and beadwork historically were used in trade as currency, carved from shells, bones, and semi-precious stones.

Manidoominensikaanag, or beadwork in English, is worth more than just a finished piece’s exchange value as currency. The process is considered both a highly prized cultural and spiritual process. The finished product is beautiful; with that said, that beauty is of secondary concern compared to the contemplative process of creating it. Manidoominensikaanag has a regional flare that is recognizable among different peoples such as the Michif (Metis), who are called the Flower Beadwork people, where their motifs are largely based around sprawling floral patterns. Great Lakes Anishinaabe has an incredibly wide variety of bead styles which vary from Nation to Nation.

It is no wonder that the Thunder Bay Art Gallery has a new exhibit called Beads, they’re sewn so tight, which is organized and circulated by the textile museum of Canada. This exhibition features the works of four Anishinaabe Manidoominensikaanag highlighting both contemporary and traditional styles of beadwork. 

From the Thunder Bay Art Gallery— “Bev Koski’s new beaded series consists of swatches of modernist abstract patterns found in day-to-day life, from product packaging to family photographs. Pattern is also a focus of Katie Longboat’s study of her Cree grandmother’s bead designs, which inform her experimentation with Cree floral design and Haudenosaunee raised beadwork. Jean Marshall’s floral beaded mittens and quill-adorned moccasins which are arranged in a circle, suggesting the gathering of Treaty #9 leaders to contend with economic development and environmental degradation. Olivia Whetung’s loom works highlight both the presence and absence of beads, asserting a visual vocabulary of place.”

Beads, they’re sewn so tight is on from September 27th until November 10th and is a must-see event.

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