November 27 2018

Beading Stories: Rebellion of My Ancestors, an exhibition of Indigenous artist Jobena Petonoquot

An exhibition hosted at la Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal until January 15 2019, from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Jobena Petonoquot: Beading Stories  - essay by Lori Beavis

"When you begin to bead you start by laying out all your hanks, so the colours are revealed, like a rainbow. You cut a length of thread to a little longer than your arm, you don’t want it too long or it will tangle up. You make a knot by wrapping the thread in a circle around the needle and then pull the needle all the way through the first bead, then tie a knot and clip off the little tail. When you are ready to begin beading, scatter a collection of beads on a cloth and take up your threaded needle, hold the needle on a slight angle to pick up the colourful glass beads – one, two, or more at a time – the beads then slide along the thread to take their place along the outlined pattern. The beads can be sewn down individually or an accumulation of beads can be stitched in place.


While the expectation is that beading is an art passed down from grannies or aunties, this is not the case for Jobena Petonoquot – her granny was too busy and not interested in sewing, so at the age of twenty-five Jobena started to bead and taught herself the patterns and techniques. She says that when she decided to begin this work she just got started and did it. When she looks at her work now she sees her heritages - a little bit of Algonquin, a little Naskapi and a pinch of Victorian-era Euro-Canadian – all come together. For Jobena the beads she places and sews into the patterns are a way for her to sew down the memories and stories of family that she has heard throughout her life. The beads help her express the stories that she now holds within herself. As a non-Algonquin speaker, Jobena states that while she only knows a few words of Anishinaabemowin, through the beads and her art-making she can speak her language.


As an Indigenous artist, Jobena Petonoquot is interested in how actions determine our survival as First Nations people. She is creating art that she hope starts a dialogue that encourages viewers to look further into the history and experiences of Indigenous people in Canada as her work more accurately conveys the history of this country as a colonized space and one in which there is an on-going Indigenous presence while at the same time her work speaks to the importance of passing histories, family stories, knowledge and skills from one generation to another."