“I’ve seen that design before,” I said as I examined the beadwork on the clothing of these two mannequins in the current exhibit Insurgence/Resurgence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.The fashions were created by Barry Ace an Anishinaabe artist from Ottawa. The beautiful beadwork on the dancers’ clothing…..
reminded me of beadwork I had seen on a trio of bandolier bags in the Art Gallery of Ontario in July. Sure enough when I looked back at the photos I’d taken at the AGO the beadwork on the bandolier bags was exactly the same as on the dancers’ clothing at the WAG. I discovered both had been created by Barry Ace.
According to the information provided by the AGO the designs on the dresses and bags replicate floral motifs from traditional Great Lakes area beadwork. Barry has made them with recycled electronic capacitors and resistors. The kinds of flowers which Barry has chosen to replicate are medicinal ones that store and release healing power. In much the same way capacitors and resistors store and release energy and power in electrical circuits. Interestingly on one of the bandolier bags on display at the AGO Barry had included an image from a silent film made on Manitoulin Island in 1925 of traditional dancers performing for government officials. Barry says it is ironic that while amendments to the Indian Act of 1876 banned all such dances the people were still allowed to perform them for high-ranking officials. As we look at the dancers in the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit it is good to remember that such cultural practices like dances were banned by the Canadian government from 1884-1951. The woman’s dress has a skirt that is reminiscent of those worn by jingle dancers. Rows of metal cones on her skirt jingle as she dances. According to this article the jingle dress was created by an Ojibwa father whose daughter was very ill. He had a vision of her dancing in a jingle dress and being healed. He instructed his daughter how to make the dress and do the dance. She did and recovered. Later she taught other women how to make the dress and do the jingle dance.