Wiigwaas means birch bark in Ojibwe, and for millennia, Indigenous peoples in Canada have utilized the birch tree for a multitude of purposes. The tree’s bark has significantly contributed to the survival, cultural, and traditional aspects of the Anishnawbek (Ojibwe people) of this region. It has and continues to be utilized for shelter, transportation, medicinal, ceremonial, and practical means. To this day, artists creatively manipulate our iconic “woodland” textile by variously biting, quilling, shaping, scraping and painting on it.
Indigenous people in Northwestern Ontario use birch bark in many ways. I am proud that my people, my fellow community members, and my artistic colleagues - notably the traditional and the elders - continue to educate others on how to properly find, harvest, store, handle, and make birch bark items such as canoes, baskets, and coverings for ceremonial shelters. This influences my work significantly and I have recreated or used birch bark in a number of my pieces.
The aim of this series of work is for viewers to experience the relationship that people have with this ever-sustaining tree and its protective mantle by honouring birch bark. It will remind and educate people of its continued intrinsic role as a natural fabric in our lives.