Artist Jordan Stranger aims to provide healing and understanding of Anishinaabe culture through art.
By: Nick Johnston
Oji-Cree visual artist Jordan Stranger, 30, starved himself as a teenager for four days in an Anishinaabe ceremony known as the Sun Dance. He pays tribute to his experiences in his art exhibit Firekeeper.
“A lot of people thought I was too young [to participate in the Sun Dance] but I wanted to do it because I knew that’s what would give me strength,” said Stranger.
Sun Dance is a ceremony of the Anishinaabe people that aims to gather those who wish for harmony and healing in their lives while honouring the sun. Stranger described the dance as an intense ceremony where people fast for four days and circle around a sacred tree. The tree has several ropes tied to the branches, and each rope has a peg that is pierced into the skin of the people around the tree. He says you are there to focus on prayers and anything from which you wish to be healed.
“You are connected to that tree…you give all the pain you’ve experienced to that tree,” Stranger said.
Stranger wanted to heal from the fallout of residential schools that afflicted him through trauma and abuse. He says Indigenous families passed down abuse from residential schools throughout generations but he uses his art to heal and bring people together.
He says the pegs are meant to break from the tension of the ropes — a symbolic moment in the ceremony.
“Once the peg breaks, they tell you ‘you are free, it’s in the past now.”
Stranger was 15 years old when he went through his journey. He says his art exhibit Firekeeper aims to reflect his experiences and display honour to the Anishinaabe people.
Tani Miki, 40, the director of finance and administration at aceartinc. said they chose Jordan’s work from more than 120 submissions.
“We give artists an opportunity to show their work and give them the audience they need,” she said.
According to RRC Digital Media Design student Aaron Copiak, Winnipeg’s art scene may be more significant than it lets on.
“Talking to a bunch of people that used to live in Winnipeg who moved to Calgary… say they miss the art scene that Winnipeg had,” said Copiak.
Learn more about Jordan Stranger’s Firekeeper and upcoming exhibitions at https://www.aceart.org/.