Sept. 15, 2017

Illuminated dreamcatcher meshes traditional art, technology and storytelling

Rings of Reconciliation installation connects community at Beakerhead event Sept. 16
Volunteers from numerous on-campus and off-campus organizations helped craft the Rings of Reconciliation dreamcatcher.

Volunteers from numerous organizations helped craft the Rings of Reconciliation dreamcatcher.

Kori Czuy

Kori Czuy and Chantal Chagnon’s illuminated dreamcatcher is a modern interpretation of a traditional Indigenous symbol. Entitled Rings of Reconciliation, the Beakerhead installation meshes traditional art, technology and storytelling to infuse the icon with new meaning. Dreamcatchers have become recognized as an Indigenous symbol of protection from bad dreams, but have much more significance, symbolism, and meaning. Czuy and Chagnon’s exhibit symbolizes the connections shared by people of all cultures.

“At this point in history, there is a need to reaffirm our connection with the land, our history and our community,” explains Czuy, who is of Cree, Métis and Polish lineage. “The weave brings together people and their stories. If one strand breaks, it reverberates throughout.”

Measuring 12 feet in diameter, the dreamcatcher was constructed of hide, ABS pipe, metal tubing and flexible LED lights.

Chagnon, a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, says the lights threaded along the hide represent the four directions and the four medicine wheel colours. “East is yellow, south is red, west is blue, and north is white. The light signifies the hope of the future amongst the darkness of the past." 

Czuy, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in the Werklund School of Education, found the melding of the new and traditional technologies a welcome challenge. “It was such an amazing experience to work with the hide, a natural material. Even when weaved in such a large context, so much of its integrity and strength remained.”

Crafting the dreamcatcher creates community

The crafting of the dreamcatcher witnessed not only a blend of technologies but also a coming together of different communities. Dozens of volunteers from The College at the University of Calgary, Forrest Lawn High School, Niitsitapi Learning CentreSchulich School of EngineeringSyrian Refugee Support Group, Werklund School of Education, Western Canada High School and Women’s Centre & Girl Power Program lent a hand in its creation. 

“There is no way this project could have been done alone, but that wasn’t the purpose of the project. Its intention was for it to always be a community project, to thrive through the knowledge and skills of many.”

Chagnon believes their undertaking captures Beakerhead’s spirit of community-connecting and ingenuity. “This entire project was experimentation and invention through trial and error­­­­ of connecting both traditional and modern elements. I think everyone has learned so much from the mistakes and hurdles made along the journey we were on. But overcoming these hurdles allowed the incredible depth of everyone’s skills to shine bright.”

Storytelling and education help address reconciliation

While Beakerhead may seem an unlikely venue at which to tackle a serious issue like reconciliation, Czuy and Chagnon believe it is the ideal setting. 

“It is through art, storytelling and education where reconciliation can be deeply understood and enacted,” says Chagnon. With this goal in mind, Blackfoot Elders Reg Crowshoe and Casey Eagle Speaker will join Chagnon in sharing stories about Indigenous culture. As well, the Sorrel Rider Drum Group will perform, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi will speak.

“We hope to connect with people who are interested in local artistic talent of all ages and who want a deeper understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing, reconciliation, and the history of Calgary/Mohkinstis and Canada,” says Czuy. “We hope they take away an appreciation and respect for the hidden pre-colonial Canadian history.”

The Rings of Reconciliation installation will be held Saturday, Sept. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Fort Calgary as part of Beakernight.

Learn more about Beakernight.