“Honestly, if my ancestors had the materials and the equipment that I have now, I think the art would look different, but the stories would be the same.”
“If you want Indigenous artists in your space, you’ve got to respect the Indigenous artists,” said Leddy. “And that includes their boundaries, their traditions, and their desires.”
Even for artists like Leddy who are given space to connect past to present and present to future, it can get tricky sometimes, as evidenced by the Riel piece. In the quest to reclaim traditional art, a murky space surfaces between honouring tradition and allowing artists to interpret that tradition in their own modern way.
Leddy is a self-proclaimed “indiginerd” with a love of sci-fi, science and biology, which is reflected in her piece “Rainbow Jellyfish.” Even though her ancestors may not have beaded jellyfish themselves, she still considers her art to be following in their traditional footsteps.
“A lot of times it carries those old stories, but to be blunt, it’s what I’m doing now that my ancestors did back then,” she said of the storytelling and meaning she gives her pieces. The stylizations and subject matters may be different, the colours used in different ways, but Leddy is still using the art form to share stories, document something and preserve it for future generations.
“For example, having the benefit of going to different places across the Métis homeland and seeing different pieces in museums, even seeing the contemporary pieces that are still listed as traditional, you see different styles that come from different beaders and different communities,” she explained, adding, “Honestly, if my ancestors had the materials and the equipment that I have now, I think the art would look different, but the stories would be the same.”
June is Indigenous History Month
We have removed the paywall on all articles featuring Indigenous artists or writers. Our members make it possible for Digits & Threads to commission these works and to ensure they reach as many readers as possible. Please consider joining today.
To directly support Indigenous people and to help address the many harms created by colonization and perpetuated by residential “schools” and systemic anti-Indigenous racism, we will highlight a different organization each week.
Please consider visiting and supporting Métis Crossing.
From their website: Métis Crossing is Alberta’s first major Métis cultural interpretive destination. Created as a place for Métis people to share Métis stories, we welcome everyone to join us for family-fun and cultural learning!
All images courtesy of Krista Leddy.