Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

ARTS: Indigenous arts revealed (Sept. 2019)

October 8th, 2019 · No Comments

The Bickford Centre hosted a celebration of Indigenous culture and arts for the second summer in a row. Sue Crow Eagle (centre) showcased her corn husk figures alongside 15 other indigenous artisans as well as dancers and drummers.

First Nations come together for arts and crafts festival

By Nabahat Hussain

On Saturday, July 20, the second annual Indigenous Harvesters and Artisans Market took place at Bickford Centre, just south of Christie Pits Park. Visitors were afforded a glimpse of a rich native cultural history through the prism of arts and crafts.

Fifteen stalls were featured including handmade crafts and art pieces made by Indigenous artists from all around the country. This year boasted a mural reveal, with a tour and explanation from the various past and present artists at the event.

The festival started off with a prayer recited by Elder Pauline Shirt while tobacco was handed out and recollected after the prayer.  “Tobacco is  our connection from the physical to the spiritual world,” says Shirt. 

Opening remarks were made by many people including artist Phil Cote, who said, “It’s important that Indigenous people begin to tell their own story, we’ve had our story told from outsiders for a long time.” Councillor Mike Layton made a brief appearance, thanking Nish Dish restaurant owner Johl Ringuette for enabling the murals at the centre to become a reality.

Mike Izzo from the TDSB, Catherine Campbell from Street ARToronto, Chief LaFormel of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and Elder Cindy White also spoke.

There were many drum and singing performances from the All Nations Big Drum group and Eagle Woman Singers. Originally from Alberta, Sue Crow Eagle re-created the group in Ontario: “It’s all ceremonial songs for the dancers to dance to.” 

Many dances took place, listed as “Jingle dance, Traditional dance, and Fancy Shawl” on the itinerary. Local Indigenous restaurant Nish Dish at 690 Bloor Street West, just east of Christie, was popular at the event, with a long line at its tent.

Many notable artists were present, with unique and popular pieces. Wesley Lori Havill, an Ojibway, Batchewana First Nation artist is best known for working with moose, deer and elk antlers, carving art into them. One antler sells at over one thousand dollars, Havill says. “I have to stare at an antler for a long time before inspiration comes to me,” and that his ideas come from nature. 

Saskatchewan-raised artist, Ren Lonechild says his upbringing played a vital role in his life. Lonechild works mainly with watercolour, his heritage being the main theme of all his pieces.

The third shoutout-worthy artist is Trip Phoenix of Sunheart Rises Designs, whose stall boasted variety in its jewellery, decorative pieces, and cultural keepsakes. After a financial crisis in his life, Phoenix says, “I met a woman at a powwow who urged me to learn to make crafts, and I expanded from there,” explaining how it helped him get back on his feet. 

Event-goer Karen said, “I came to support Indigenous artists and the Indigenous community, they’ve come from all over Ontario including from the reserves. Many people here I’ve already bought art from.”While the dances and shopping was going on, so was an educational program at the school’s medicine garden. The speakers told stories and gave tips on how to take care of certain plants in the space. Once all mural reveals, performances, music, selling, and programs were over, a closing prayer by Elder Pauline Shirt was said and the event closed off with a Drum Song with Dancers. The Indigenous Harvesters and Artisans market will be back next year for its third run. 

Tags: Annex · Arts