Mary Commanda

Much indigenous knowledge is disappearing as the elderly pass away, but a Toronto artist is using her work to help keep the tradition alive.

Mary Commanda, who is Algonquin from Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nations, first made dream catchers as a child at day camp. Decades later, while toiling at an unsatisfying corporate job, he searched for something to ease the monotony.

“I had no artistic or creative outlet,” he says. “Being a creative person, I was in a difficult state, especially when work was becoming more and more stressful.”

So, he returned to the dream catchers of his youth. “Creating is almost like meditating, and the satisfaction of having a finished piece at the end is really great.” These finished pieces are also beautiful, one-of-a-kind, and are now in demand through her Sticks and Bones Studio, which is located in her Regent Park apartment. Commanda describes her art as “somewhat bohemian, asymmetrical but balanced. I feel comfortable in the chaos and that is reflected in my work. “

Mary Commanda says that creating dream catchers allows you to share your culture and history and offers you a creative outlet.

She creates her dream catchers with primarily natural materials such as crystals, bones, skulls, metals, feathers, and deerskin. “It is very important to me to obtain the materials in a way that is consistent with my business ethics,” he says, “so I try to obtain them directly from my stock. If I can’t find what I need there, I’ll try another reservation. If that doesn’t work, I will contact another indigenous company, then a small local company. “

He also uses branches, which he sands by hand. “It is very satisfying to make the branches,” she says. “I spend a lot of time walking through the woods, picking up single fallen branches. It’s amazing to bring home a dirty, dirty branch and clean up all the age and dirt. ”

Most of your pieces are custom commissions, so you can also include personal items, such as a stone, a branch, or a feather; once, he even incorporated the umbilical cord of a customer’s baby!

“What really makes me happy is the connection with my clients and people in general,” he says. “I have the opportunity to share my culture and history, along with my art. It also gives people the opportunity to connect and learn about indigenous culture in a respectful way. “

It also organizes dreamcatcher and moccasin workshops for indigenous and non-indigenous people. They are both wonderful in their own way, she says: “There are so many indigenous peoples who have lost their connection to their culture through Canada’s disenfranchisement policy, so it is truly an honor to play a role in re-establishing that. Connection”.

As for the knowledge you share with non-indigenous people? Commanda makes sure her workshops – she held them in Riverdale Park during the pandemic and is now looking for an indoor space for the next ones – are a safe space to learn.

“I firmly believe that understanding and openness are an important step towards reconciliation,” he says. “It gives all of us the opportunity to connect and see the world from different perspectives.”

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