The ‘Good Spirits’, often misinterpreted as ‘bad spirits’ because of their obvious expressions and devilish horns, was an image I found years ago in an old sepia photo. The ‘spirits’ were painted directly on the outside of a tipi and the intention was for these ‘beings’ to ward off or protect it’s inhabitants from actual ‘bad spirits’, enemies, and I’m sure anything with bad intentions (!)
Assiniboin: the painted medicine tipi of a man named ‘Nosey’ is made of canvas. The heavy cotton was supplied to reservations by the Government after the 1880’s, when the buffalo had been killed off and skins could no longer be used. -Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana, July 1906 (“Indians” by Joanna Cohan Scherer, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York.
The ‘Strawberry Festival’ which takes place when the ‘wild strawberry’ ripens, usually late June, is to thank the Creator for the return of this fruit. The timing coincides with the beginning of all remaining fruit which begins to ripen and can be harvested at this time.
My picture also incorporates a strawberry-design ash basket. This beautiful, labour intensive craft is traditional to the Mohawk people. I’ve never endeavoured to make one myself but appreciate the talent that is required to make these beautiful designs. The weavers use the ash tree, sweetgrass, dyes, various weaving styles and designs to create useful as well as beautiful baskets. Here’s an example of a weaver/artist: http://www.indiancraftshop.com/highlight_of_month/RobinLazore.htm
I created the central figure to be cocooned in leaves (Nature), blue sky/water (Life/Air) encircle, but I also made her/him look fragile, disjointed, broken. A person, depending on their life circumstances and at what instance you encounter them, can be either strong and impenetrable or weak and full of holes. I chose the latter in this instance. The need for the Good Spirits would obviously be more necessary at this vulnerable moment. Being enveloped in Nature, Tradition, other strong symbols of my culture, was to counter that state of being in a positive way. Combining this with the concept of the Strawberry Festival made me think of ‘renewal’/’ripening’/’change’/’giving thanks’….a contrasting but inevitable idea that occurs every year. Mother Earth goes on with her seasons and circle of life, death, ripening and renewal, with or without us.