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wâsêtâhkwakâw (it is starlight)

cyanotype treated jacquard cotton, deer antler button, braided sweetgrass, matchstick, pressed violets with gold flake in resin, grey felt. 8.75×11.25″

Working with mediums like textiles, fabric, beadwork, and medicine had me start thinking about nôhkompan, who passed away September of 2021. Her relationship to our family was strained and while we were all very close, she was very tight lipped about a lot of her past and refused to open up to anyone about it, except in a very few short instances closer to the end of her life.

Her experiences hardened her in a way that greatly impacted many members of our family. Her relationship with my mother overshadowed much of our lives and unfortunately it was a situation that was impossible to resolve, even upon her death.

With her passing were a lot of mixed emotions and things we all wish we could have said. When creating this piece, I felt like I was able to face her death as an impartial witness; I could take a step back and look at the cutirety of her life in all its complexity and appreciate her for exactly who she was and everything she’d been through.

When making this cyanotype print, I used a wooden coffin box, prairie sage from our homelands, an eagle feather, two pressed resin flowers, and some of her bingo chips I had acquired after her passing.
Sewn onto the piece are a braid of burned sweetgrass which I lit for her and smudged all my pieces with, the match which I used to light the braid. a deer antler button, and both of the pressed resin flowers.

These flowers ended up having an alarming level of complexity to them-1 initially chose them because my grandmother liked flowers and gold, and I wanted to honour that, but as I was sewing them to the piece, I realized the pressed flowers were violets-my grandmother’s name.

I titled this piece wâsêtâhkwakâw because of our ties as nêhiyawak to the stars, the belief that when we pass we return to the stars, and the belief that we are all made of stardust waiting to return.