Ancestral Braids exhibition opens at Ojibwe Cultural Foundation

Janice Tolouse’s exhibition ‘Ancestral Braids’ is on now at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation. photo by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG – The Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF) is back in the swing of things after being closed for much of the pandemic. This month heralds the opening of a new exhibition ‘Gete Kaadenganan: Ancestral Braids’ by Janice Toulouse.

But the new paradigm of COVID-19 reality has meant some significant changes to how exhibitions operate.

“We only allow four people in at a time and you must call ahead,” said OCF curator of the exhibition Shaelynn Recollet. Those wishing to review this remarkable exhibit must phone ahead for an appointment. It is well worth the effort.

“There is strength and wisdom that can be felt within the works of Janice Toulouse,” said Ms. Recollet. “Each painting is not just a reflection of the artist and the ever-complex path in life she embarks upon as an Anishinaabe-kwe, it is a reflection of many other individuals who have sought to find their roots, family and aim to bring forth and reconnect to that distant knowledge of ourselves.”

Ms. Toulouse made the journey up from Croker Island where she now makes her home for the opening reception. Ms. Toulouse introduces herself by her spirit name, Shingwauk Kwe, adding that she is bear clan and was born in Serpent River First Nation. “I am descended from the Ojibwe painters of the pictographs,” she noted. “Those ancestors and the pictographs they left behind are my greatest inspiration.”

“I have always enjoyed talks with my family elders,” said Ms. Toulouse. “A strong influence was my mother Florence (Pine) Toulouse, my grandmother Alice Pine and my grandfather Peter Pine.”

Ms. Toulouse recalled watching her grandmother braid her long white hair when her grandmother lived with the family. “Being raised amongst a large extended family there were many moments of contact that stayed in my memory.”

“I did this exhibition as a painter to honour my ancestors, the Ojibwe of all these lands, of Ontario, our homeland and waters, and to inspire the youth,” she said. “As a former art teacher I would like to do that work. I hope that even if they can’t get down to see the exhibition they can see it online and become inspired to do their own art.”

Ms. Toulouse notes that she creates “paintings that tell a story of nature, history and memory. I have travelled widely and yet always remained connected to my family and my homeland. Now, in my elder years, it has been advised by my cousin lodge keeper from Garden River that I return home to our territory and pass on my experience as an artist.”

Ms. Toulouse has taught most recently at the University of Art and Design in Vancouver, but also was a teacher at the White Mountain Art Academy in Elliot Lake.

The exhibition of her work runs from October to January 2021 and is supported by the Government of Canada and the Ontario Arts Council.

Those wishing to view the exhibition in person are advised to contact the OCF at 705-377-4902 to make arrangements.