Cha Nimke Nagwagin Kwe, also known as Jasmin Glaw, is an Indigenous artist and youth advocate working in the city of Hamilton. Most of Glaw’s design work centralizes around themes of identity, belonging and teachings of the strawberry, or heart berry, the plant representation of woman.
As a child, Glaw spent time between her home in Hamilton and her mother’s home community of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation. From an early age, Glaw was intrigued by the process of laying out designs and bringing them to life, altering thrift shop finds and restoring something old into something new.
As a member of a generation of children who were not raised on reserve, thus lacking exposure to traditional knowledge, Glaw was motivated to become the self-driven artist and advocate that she is today.
Today, Glaw uses her work as a platform for advocacy and education, creating pieces that hold traditional meaning and resonate with audiences of all backgrounds.
“When creating a design I really try to think about the purpose behind its creation. Much like the rest of the population, I seek purpose in myself, my work and my relationships,” said Glaw.
“How will this piece convey purpose? With this active application of mindfulness, I try to connect my pieces to the world we live in and challenges that we face every day.”
“When creating a design I really try to think about the purpose behind its creation. Much like the rest of the population, I seek purpose in myself, my work, and my relationships,”
The Missing Heart Berry
This past Supercrawl, Glaw designed the “Missing Heart Berry,” a textile design/artistic advocacy piece that uses Traditional Jingle Dress Regalia in order to create a platform for awareness of the current crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
The strawberry, or heart berry, serves as the plant representation of a woman. Similar to the plant, women create life, unapologetically hold a host of emotions, model the ability to forgive and stands as a symbol of reconciliation. As this piece was created for women, Glaw thought it to be appropriate to acknowledge the strawberry.
The design also attributes similarities to the red coat worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The long history of colonialism, oppression, discrimination and assimilation of Indigenous people, enforced by the RCMP, proved to be a fitting factor as to why the dress mocks the red coat. This aspect of the design is meant to represent the abuse of power and lack of support that has been demonstrated by the Canadian government.
Glaw stresses that there have been some respectful allies within the RCMP and Canadian government who seek to support the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, but still believes there is a steep mountain to climb.
“Since I dreamt of this piece, it has been my hope that it would impress the importance of a well-intentioned national inquiry so that the families of the [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada] are met with peace and that the spirits of their lost ones are no longer wandering, but rather found and guided to the Creator,” said Glaw.
Art as healing and reconciliation
Glaw often finds herself turning to art or design to decompress or to find peace of mind. Basic design practices, including beading, helps Glaw to clear the mind of obstacles faced and to make space for creative exploration within herself.
Using creative freedom to craft projects with meaning and purpose, one of Glaw’s hopes is to help promote reconciliation and create unique opportunities for learning more about Indigenous people in Canada.
“The Missing Heart Berry project’s purpose was to bring awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (#MMIWG) in Canada,” said Glaw. “This issue is something that has been affecting our communities for years, but somehow hasn’t resonated with the rest of Canada. Therefore, by giving a design purpose I can use it as a vehicle for sharing a message or for promoting awareness around a certain topic.”
The Sweetgrass Sisters Collective
Established in early 2017 by Glaw and Jessica Lea Fleming, The Sweetgrass Sisters Collective seeks to empower and strengthen the local Indigenous community via traditional and contemporary programming, networking and performance opportunities.
One of the major goals for the collective is to preserve knowledge and culture with three guiding, interwoven pieces.
Another major goal is to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in order to create space for dialogue surrounding key issues, including Indigenous representation in the media, access to cultural opportunities outside of the GTA and to create a cross cultural platform for community players to learn and share from one another.
With support from the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Hamilton Canada 150 Fund, the first organized event for The Sweetgrass Sisters Collective entitled Howling Moons: A Celebration of Indigenous Performance and Culture takes place Sept. 30 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts.
Daytime programming will take place at the Fischer Gallery at the AGH and will feature teachings from local Knowledge Keepers and Hoop Dance performers in addition to a talking circle with award winning dancer Nimkii Osawamick from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.
Evening programming will follow at the HCA Recital Hall. The event will be hosted by Jessie Goyette (Algonquin/Métis) and will feature live performances by hip hop artist chllly (Mohawk / Jamaican) and celebrated headliner, Iskwé (Cree / Dené / Irish). The evening will conclude with a one-hour set by DJ Ariel (Blackfoot/Cree/Ojibway).
Following Howling Moons, Glaw also plans to delve further into leatherwork to incorporate into her designs.
Glaw’s work ultimately encompasses teaching and advocacy into traditional Indigenous designs and pave the way towards her long term goals, which include to help motivate and encourage Indigenous youth to invest more time in learning about culture and language, to empower mixed-race Indigenous peoples to stand proud of their identity and to seek more strawberry teachings from her elders to apply to future design work.