Material Kwe

Featured in: Tu Gh’el T’ilhn // Water carriers

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For many, the fashion arts have always been an active and vibrant site of cultural exchange—a place where people with different stories, from different places, come together to explore and negotiate their position in the world. While this is true, for Anishinabeg, the fashion arts is also deeply embedded in a history of destruction, appropriation and gendered violence. Within our communities, the fashion arts have often been a site of cultural/material exploitation and appropriation. Indeed, the beginning of settler-Anishinabeg contact within my family’s traditional lands was based on resource extrapolation for European colonial male fashion (e.g. beaver pelts for hats). Material Kwe is comprised of five (5) wearable art head to toe ensembles that press back against this material HIStory. Each design challenges me to integrate Anishinabe designs and materials with early colonial women’s fashion design and materials, carefully reworking the past in the present in order to re-fashion a different frame of mind—one filtered by a powerful, material kwe presence that aims to permit/privilege a more respectful/productive relationship between past/present/future settler women and Anishinabekwewag. Material Kwe invites community to think through this HIStoried past, which I believe is important work because in order to move towards something other than colonialism, we need to encounter it in the present, making the present connect to the past, while simultaneously doing the work of imagining and fashioning something radically different…a material HERstory. For me, this is found through Material Kwe. Note: “Kwe” in Anishinabemowin is a short-form/slang for “woman”