My name is Nokomis. I’m an Ojibwa artist and storyteller who grew up in the bush almost seventy years ago. The literal translation of my name means "the great mother" for Nokomis was the spirit who created the Ojibwa in the world. In another context the word can mean grandmother. The name was given to me by my elders at a naming ceremony when it was apparent to them who I would be in this lifetime.
I’ve always been a storyteller but I haven’t always been an artist. The world of Canadian native art would have passed me by if it hadn’t occurred to me one day that a good story might be even better if it had a good picture to illustrate the point. I haven’t had any training in the area of art. My work is sort of naive. But what the heck – it’s my life and I get to paint it any way I please!
I paint what life was like in the Northern Ontario bush almost sixty years ago. With no running water or electricity, day to day activities were most often focused on providing life’s necessities. Although from late twentieth century urban eyes the lifestyle looks tough, it was just life. It provided all the opportunities to learn what each of us must come to terms with before peace (our own and the world’s) is possible – that relationships are what life is about and the rest of our activities are filler.
My imagery is as naïve and simple as my philosophy. Even the colours I use are seldom complex. Each painting is a narrative, a brief moment in time that captures real people going about their lives. Viewers often relate in a personal way to the paintings and I think it’s because they see themselves. They see the humanity of what it is to be native, not the weird stories.
My message is simply that you’ve had your life I’ve had mine – it’s only been the props that occasionally have been different.
For too long, I’ve been travelling back and forth across the country showing my pictures and telling stories but age has caught up with me. I’ve decided that it’s finally time to learn how to be a techie so that I can sit on my duff and spread the word about Canadian native art through this world wide web thing. Who woulda thunk that being a techie is almost as easy as being an artist. It’s just a matter of telling some more stories.
Hollie Bear Bartlett
David J. Gonzales
Doug Horne Jr
Betty Denis Joe
Alexander Clifton Ridley
Lucy Tikiq Tunguak
Victor Michael West
Joe R. Wilson