C/O Beads in the Trap

Local artist explores Indigenous identity and resurgence with her beadwork

Art has long been a way for artists to create a space for themselves in a world where they feel one doesn’t exist. It’s a way of carving out a tangible space to explore and reclaim who you are. For several Indigenous artists, including Kanien’kehá:ka beadwork artist Darien Bardy, art is an act of expression as much as it is an act of resurgence.

Bardy was born and raised in Hamilton. Growing up, she struggled with her Indigenous identity and history. She regularly faced racism and often had to act as if she didn’t know much about her culture in an attempt to avoid such encounters.

As she got older, Bardy became involved with a number of groups for Indigenous peoples, including the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, the Aboriginal Health Centre and the Native Women’s Centre. It was through this work that she was first introduced to and became interested in beadwork.

Beading is a traditional Indigenous art form with a long history. The final pieces are considered a manifestation of the artist’s good intentions. It’s also an art form that has gained a lot of attention recently for its prominence in projects supporting Indigenous resurgence.

C/O Beads in the Trap

For Bardy, beading served as an important connection to her history and she didn’t expect it to grow into something more. People began to ask her where they could purchase her pieces, she made her Instagram page Beads in the Trap and things really took off. 

“It really just took on a different shape because at first I was like, “this is going to be my page for just documenting my beadwork journey and see how I’m improving over the months”. . . But then it just kind of turned into something bigger,” said Bardy.

“It really just took on a different shape because at first I was like, “this is going to be my page for just documenting my beadwork journey and see how I’m improving over the months”. . . But then it just kind of turned into something bigger,” said Bardy.

Now Beads in the Trap has almost 4000 followers and Bardy’s products sell incredibly quickly, often on the day she posts them. But even as her business continues to grow, Bardy’s personal connection to beading has not diminished. If anything it has grown and taken on a larger meaning. It is no longer solely about helping her connect to her own history and understand her identity, but it is also a way for her to help other Indigenous youth do the same.

“I describe it as Indigenous resurgence in contemporary colonialism because my stuff is not very traditional but I think it represents a lot of urban Native youth or Native youth in younger generations that don’t necessarily conform to the traditional ways, but still are influenced by traditional ways,” explained Bardy.

This is seen even in the name of Bardy’s business, which is a reference to the Nicki Minaj song Beez in the Trap. For Bardy, these pieces are another way in which she reconciles the different aspects of her identity. 

C/O Beads in the Trap

“In our culture, it’s like when you’re touching the beads…the good thoughts that are happening in your mind come out through your fingertips and into the beads. So while you’re beading, you’re literally creating a physical piece of your good thoughts and your good intentions. Those intentions and those good words and thinking good thoughts and wanting good things for whoever wears them – that’s in every single piece that I put out. So, even though my pieces aren’t traditional looking . . . the intentions and the good mind is still behind it,” explained Bardy.

Bardy also sees her business as a starting point for conversation about Indigenous histories and resurgence. Especially because many of her pieces can be worn, people often ask her — or her friends and family — about them, creating an opportunity and an opening for these important conversations. 

“What I want people to get out of it is just a symbol of like, we’re still here, you can be an ally to us by supporting Indigenous artists . . . [I want people to] walk away with a sense of we’re still here. Indigenous people are still here and we’re still trying to figure out where to go from here. We’re still trying to figure out what it means to be Indigenous in the world now. Now that we’re not a targeted people all the time. Now that we actually have space to breathe and be who we are, who are we?” said Bardy.

“[I want people to] walk away with a sense of we’re still here. Indigenous people are still here and we’re still trying to figure out where to go from here,” said Bardy.

Brady’s art, the histories and traditions it merges as well as the conversation it encourages are very much an act of expression and resurgence on both a personal and a community level.

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