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Swimming with my Ancestors

Ribbon skirt, 2020.

Before beginning my Master of Design thesis research in Fall 2020, I had a dream over the summer prior of creating a piece in honour of my ancestor grandmothers who are on my research and making journey with me. Honouring their names and identities through beadwork on a series of velvet ribbons (with one ribbon left blank in honour of my future ancestor grandmothers) - each of these women make up a part of the woman I am today. Their presence is within me, with their resilience as Métis women a guiding force in who I am as a designer, maker and thinker.

Water plays a significant role in this piece. Water enables the activation of my grandmother ancestors’ spirits, mobilizing the presence of their identities in relationship to our ancestral waterways. Water embeds itself within every inch of the ribbon skirt, deeply soaking between the beads and the textile’s storied weave. In water it’s weight presses against my skin, fostering a new relationship between my body, my ancestor grandmothers’ bodies and the materiality of the skirt itself. With this performance I am not longer wearing the skirt alone. I am wearing this skirt with my grandmothers. 

This piece marks an embodied gesture of identity through garment construction, beadwork and performance. My body is a contemporary vessel of Métis identity. My body is a living, breathing, resilient presence of both historical and future lineages of Métis women. My body as a Métis woman swimming with my ancestor grandmothers is a political stance of resistance against the colonial domination of Métis womanhood. 


©2020 Justine Woods. All Rights Reserved.