Heartbeat of a Nation exhibit in the Winnipeg Art Gallery celebrates The Spirit of 250 Years

By: Joiee Guimond

​​Tracy Charette Fehr partnered with the Manitoba Métis Federation for an exhibit called Heartbeat of a Nation on display in the Winnipeg Art Gallery from Aug. 20 to Nov. 20.

It displays 250 hand-crafted, smoke-fired bowls accompanied by other textile pieces to honour Métis women and their contributions for the last 250 years.  

Emma Peters, a student in Manufacturing Computer Aided Drafting, expresses herself through her favourite art medium: painting. She believes preserving culture through art is of utmost importance.

“Having this in an art gallery can help,” says Peters.

In a video posted on YouTube by APTN News in, Fehr said she felt that Métis women’s capabilities weren’t fully recognized.

“Women were kind of auxiliary, like they weren’t really featured in much of the history, so I thought I wanted to recognize people like my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother who really survived a lot of difficulties,” said Fehr.

Heartbeat of a Nation exhibit in the Winnipeg Art Gallery. /TRACY CHARETTE FEHR

Fehr works with other mediums too.

 “I’ve been trying to go along with this revival, trying to bring those arts back because they represent a lot of what women have done for hundreds of years,” she said.

Fehr said she started the project with her own family in mind. She spent time with her aunts to learn more about their childhood.

She has many favourite stories from what her aunts shared, including how they overcame the hardships they experienced.

When Fehr began talking to more people whose experiences were similar in many ways, she realized she wanted to do something bigger.

Fehr traced her history back to a great-grandmother born in 1770. The 250 represents those 250 years of family history and recognizes the strength of the Métis woman in the nation.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Fehr said she started considering her lineage from a historical perspective. Thanks to the increasing availability of genealogy in recent years, she has been able to find out more about the women in her ancestry. 

“That’s neat because it makes me feel more in touch with those women, almost like I know them,” she said.

During her childhood, Fehr separated from her mom’s side of the family. She said the WAG exhibit is part of her healing journey and reconnection with her family.

The 250 bowls will be given to Métis women across the province when the exhibit is over.