An artists is who I am, telling stories is what I do...
Boozhoo, I am Zhaawano Giizhik. I am an artist. I know that like other artists, I sometimes ask myself what my role is in my community and in society as a whole and if, and how, and to what extent, my being an artist relates to being a warrior.
The way I understand it, being a warrior is about being modest, the willingness to fight uphill battles for the good of others, and, most of all, about knowing and understanding where I come from. This realization defines my role in society; on a more personal level it might even be integral to deciding where it is that I, as an individual, want to go in life.
I myself am waabizheshi doodem, a Marten Clan person, and I have heard that in the old days Martin clan members served as pipe bearers and message carriers for the ogimaag (chiefs). I am also told that nowadays martens are looked upon as fierce defenders of mino-bimaadiziwin, the Good Way of the Heart (Midewiwin) and of Anishinaabemowin, the beautiful language of the Ojibwe people. Sure, the virtues that the ancestors accredited to martens (they jump fearlessly into the black of night to defend values, to fight for change, for what is right) are things that I can try to emulate in everyday life, but I am also fully aware that this still doesn't earn me warrior recognition status, or make me an ogichidaa in the eyes of my People, or society as a whole.
What I do know, however, is that I am an artist, who passionately and whole-heartedly chose to tell inspiring stories through works of art. Artists is who we all are, it is our calling and it defines our spiritual outlook and, at the same time, our unique yet humble place in society: in my case as a Marten clan person, a father, a writer, a gold and silversmith, and a graphic artist. Telling teaching stories is what we do, and if we are lucky our creations touch and inspire in meaningful ways the hearts and minds of at least some of those who are out there. City people. Rural people. Reservation people. Those who follow the red road and those who do not, or not yet. The blessed and the drop-outs, the healthy and the disabled. Those who have houses and those who live on the streets. The fortunate and the not so fortunate, the young and the elderly, men, women and youngsters of every color and creed. The brave-hearted out there and, yes, even the not so brave-hearted...
We hope that you will enjoy and be inspired by the art you find on this page and the stories they tell.
Illustration: Maanadwe Miinawaa Waabizheshi Doodemag (Fisher and Marten Clans) clan ring set designed and handcrafted by Zhaawano Giizhik.