Nadya Kwandibens Shiibaashka’igan: Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress

    Nadya Kwandibens, Shiibaashka’igan: Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress, 2019. Courtesy of the artist
Nadya Kwandibens, Shiibaashka’igan: Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

This outdoor component of the exhibition Materialized presents an image by newly-appointed Toronto Photo Laureate Nadya Kwandibens. Photographed at the Naotkamegwanning roundhouse, the portrait depicts three Anishinaabekwewag sharing a candid moment of laughter, subverting the “stoic Indian” trope that characterizes historical portraits by non-Indigenous photographers. It is said that laughter is medicine—this image brings together that energy with the healing power of the jingle dress.

The jingle dress and dance were gifted to the Anishinaabek in the early 1900s. Pictured in Kwandibens’ image are Shirley White, Roseanna Cowley, and Caroline White, from Naotkamegwanning First Nation in northwestern Ontario, the region from which the jingle dress originates. Kwandibens’ extensive and prolific body of work as a portrait photographer has taken her across Canada to document Indigenous artists, activists, knowledge keepers, and thought leaders. These portrait sessions often result in a number of outtakes, capturing subjects in candid moments. The work presented here is one of several outtakes from a series photographed for the exhibition Shiibaashka’igan: Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress at the Lake of the Woods Museum (Kenora, Ontario). As part of the group exhibition Materialized with artists Joi T. Arcand, Celeste-Pedri Spade, and Catherine Blackburn, and presented offsite at street level in the context of a public billboard, the work Shiibaashka’igan brings the viewer into the healing circle of laughter, providing a much-needed moment of respite and joy to passersby while speaking to the exhibition’s broader themes of intergenerational memory, familial narrative, and decolonization.

Read more about the exhibition Materialized here.

Curated by Ariel Smith
Smith is an award winning nêhiyaw, white settler and Jewish filmmaker, video artist, writer, and cultural worker. Having created independent media art since 2001, she has shown at festivals and galleries across Canada and Internationally. Ariel has worked as a programmer/curator for such organizations as galerie saw gallery, The Ottawa International Animation Festival, Reel Canada, imagineNATIVE, Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, and the National Gallery of Canada. Ariel works as the Artistic and Managing Director of Native Women in the Arts and is in the process of completing an MFA in Film Production from York University.

Co-presented by Native Women in the Arts and Critical Distance Centre for Curators, in partnership with CONTACT

Nadya Kwandibens is Anishinaabe from the Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario. She is an award winning photographer and a Canon Ambassador. In 2008 she founded Red Works Photography. Red Works is a dynamic photography company empowering contemporary Indigenous lifestyles and cultures through photographic essays, features, and portraits. Red Works specializes in natural light portraiture and headshots sessions plus event and concert photography. Nadya’s photography has been exhibited in group and solo shows across Canada and the United States. She currently resides in Tkarón:to on Wendat, Haudenosaunee, Mississauga of the Credit River & Dish With One Spoon Territory. In 2023, she was declared the City of Toronto’s third Photo Laureate.