Anishinaabeg: Who We Are

Anishinaabeg: Who We Are is about being Anishinaabe through time. The Thunderbird represents the upper world and the Underwater Panthers represent the lower world, with floral motifs representing the earth in between. The graphic is a representation of our cosmology and spiritual beliefs. I first made a version of this graphic as a stencil when I was a graphic design student exploring Anishinaabe aesthetics and history. Anishinaabe visuals changed considerably from the 1700s into the 1800s with new cultural influences. Thunderbirds and Underwater Panthers are seen in our older works, and while such imagery is becoming more prominent, certain depictions became less seen due to European colonialism and religious influences, while floral beadwork and imagery became a huge part of our contemporary identity, which we are known for today. I wanted to show that the old and new can coexist, that these shifting visuals are all a part of who we are. At the time, I was nervous to depict spiritually powerful imagery, the Underwater Panthers in particular, but I felt it was important to do as a part of cultural reclamation and to push back against negative assumptions about Native beliefs. It was a risk I was willing to take. I also had some interesting experiences that seemed to say I was going in the right direction. I do think we should be mindful of how we use older imagery, however. I learned a lot about myself and where I came from through the process, and in a lot of ways my explorations back then led me to where I am today. This artwork is for Anishinaabe people.