AAGNO launches annual show in Thunder Bay

The Aboriginal Artworks Group of North Ontario (AAGNO) presents its fifth annual Spring Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Show and Sale at the Victoriaville Centre in Thunder Bay, this Wednesday, May 28 to Saturday, May 31. 

The show is called “Seguin” which means spring in Oji-Cree according to John Ferris, AAGNO coordinator and founder.

Ferris started the art group in 2001 with 32 participants and now has over 200 who he invites to participate in shows.

AAGNO has its annual shows during Christmas and the spring in Thunder Bay.

This summer, Ferris plans to bring a show to Toronto for the first time. From August 14 to 18, the group presents its first annual show Northern Ontario Aboriginal Fine Arts & Crafts Summer Exhibition and Sale in Toronto at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel, 33 Gerrard Street West.

Ferris expects about 80 artists from northern Ontario to participate in Toronto’s show.

“With so many artisans, I want to promote and market their artworks by travelling to larger communities and internationally,” said Ferris about the decision to exhibit in Toronto.

Ferris, 55, (Oji-Cree) is from the Constance Lake First Nation, Ont and now resides in Thunder Bay.

The group’s work showcases the richness of Indigenous art and history from northern Ontario. Ferris wants the public to realize how important these works of art are today.

“We want to educate people that these were very important to our survival,” said Ferris about many of the artworks that in the past were used as tools.

Artisans like Maggie Magiskan today creates birchbark art like baskets or tikinagans which is Oji-Cree for cradleboards.

Ferris mentioned that his mother told him he was raised in a tikinagan as a baby.

“Tikinagans are still used a lot with quite a few people from the northern communities, even here in Thunder Bay,” said Ferris.

Tikinagans were traditionally made by the infant’s grandparents or parents.

Other art objects like tamarack birds were and still are used as decoys to attract ducks and geese for hunting today. Ferris invites tamarack bird makers like Richard Barkman from Sachigo First Nation and others to exhibit at the group shows.

“We have numerous artists from the northern communities that paint in the Woodland style,” said Ferris about artists Derek Harper and Lloyd Kakepetum from Keewaywin First Nation and Ananias Jacob from Webequie First.

In Night Eagle, Jacob, 46, demonstrates how Woodland-style painters manifest a spiritual context in their work.

Legends and stories of spirits told to Jacob as a child inspire him.

He created Night Eagle at a time when his nephew was hospitalized. Under the eagle’s claws, the four dots coloured red, blue, yellow, and white represent his nephew.

For Jacob, it’s his belief that an eagle carries messages and prayers to the Creator.

“When we smudge, they say the eagle carries the prayer to the Creator,” said Jacob whose prayers were answered when his nephew recovered.
Stories and others like these can be heard from AAGNO artists who share their inspirational words to those who stop to chat at their show tables in Thunder Bay this weekend or in Toronto this summer.

For artists in northern Ontario: the registration deadline for the Toronto show in August is June 25, 2014. For more information, contact John Ferris at 807-939-7525 or jgferris1959@gmail.com or Facebook: Aboriginal Artworks Group of Northern Ontario. Got a story idea? Email Business story ideas to millie@tworowtimes.com.

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