Profile of Native Woodland jeweler Zhaawano Giizhik

A Native Woodland artist named Southern Cedar

Woodland jeweler Zhaawano's name written in Ojibwe syllabics

Boozhoo! Zhaawanogiizhik indanishinaabewinikaazowin. Waabizheshi  (ᐙᐱᔐᔑ᙮ ) niin indoodem. Niin indanishinaabe miinawaa Gichi-mookomaan gaye dash Dutch. Baawitigong indoonjibaa.

This means: "Hello! My traditional Ojibwe name is White Cedar From The South. Marten is my clan. I am a man of mixed Anishinaabe and Anglo-Dutch-American ancestry. I come from the place of the Rapids."

What drives me as a contemporary artist? Regardless of what it is that leaves my hands, I have always felt the urge to push the limits on what is considered "Native American art", yet, as I am deeply inspired by the world of my Native Anishinaabe ancestors, I never forget to honor and incorporate their legacy. When I create, I always look to their traditional stories and pictographic imagery as a foundation of my jewelry, pencil drawings, and writings. By using ‘spirit memory’, the remembrance of our ancestral knowledge, I seek to re-introduce through my work the ancient world view of the Anishinaabeg and channel it into the contemporary consciousness and today's aesthetic conceptions.

As I do my best to live up to my Marten doodem duties, I see it as my goal to keep Anishinaabe identity and history alive through stories, imagery, and sharing language. My pictographs are my work.

Miigwech, thank you!

Profile picture of Aboriginal Woodland artist Zhaawano Giizhik

Who is Zhaawano Giizhik?

An American artist/writer/jewelry designer currently living in the Netherlands, Zhaawano was born an army brat in 1959 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. He goes by his traditional (spirit) name, Zhaawanogiizhik, or Zhaawano Giizhik, which is Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) for Southern White Cedar.

Zhaawano has Ojibwe Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, or Marten clan. In Ojibwe syllabics this would be: ᐙᐱᔐᔑ᙮.

Zhaawano, whose jewelry designs, written stories, and graphic design draw on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors, works in a Canadian art discipline generally called the Native Woodland School of Art.

As a writer and a Woodland artist expressing himself through jewelry-making and graphic designs, Zhaawano explores and expresses the inner meaning of the life forms that surround us, which means that his work reflects the reciprocal relationships between humans, the spirits, the supernatural, the plant world, and animals.

The underlying motivation is always to translate this ancient world view into original jewelry designs and stories and graphic art that can be universally appreciated. To him, the use of precious metals and stones and line drawings is just another evolution of how he can tell stories that reflect the world of his ancestors.

Zhaawano's works of art are essentially storytelling mediums. The underlying motivation is always to translate his ancestor's world view into original jewelry designs and graphic art that can be universally appreciated. To him, the use of precious metals and stones and line drawings is just another evolution of how he can relate the ancient stories that have been passed on to many generations before him.

Sometimes the graphic, hieroglyphic-like line drawings he produces when creating his overlay jewelry and digipaintings are drawn from personal dreams, and sometimes they express moods and feelings from his life; however, no matter how you look at it, all of his work owes a great deal, and is deeply indebted, to Ojibwe mazinaajimowin: the mysterious picture drawings his distant ancestors depicted on river and lake bank cliffs and in birch bark scrolls.

In the past, Zhaawano has written several blogs about the history, art, and lifeways of his People and he plans to do many more for a long time to come.

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