Artist uses new exhibit to fight erasure of Métis women from history

Winnipeg Art Gallery honours Métis women in Heart Beat of a Nation exhibit running until Sept. 20

Métis women are being celebrated at a new Winnipeg Art Gallery exhibit, which pays tribute to more than 250 years of Métis maternality.

Tracey Charette Fehr has been working with clay for years. But what started out as a hobby has now turned into a tribute to her heritage.

Her exhibit, Heartbeat of a Nation, is a celebration of Métis women.

“I really felt that Métis women hadn’t been recognized throughout the history. We have Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont and many leaders, but women were kind of auxiliary and they weren’t featured in much of the history,” said Fehr.

“I wanted to recognize people like mother, grandmother, great grandmother who really survived lots of difficulties over the years. So I wanted to highlight them.”

Fehr traced her grandmother’s Métis heritage back to 1770. Last year marked 250 years, and so she made 250 clay, wood-smoked bowls.

The bowls represent in her words the domestication of the women who birthed the Métis Nation.

“When I look at these bowls I see a constellation of people and constellation of women across the course of 250 years. So I see them as people, and as beautiful, as in that they are all different — different sizes different colours, different make up. There’s just so much uniqueness.”

The exhibit also features tapestry from her family’s history and pays homage to her aunties.

“They grew up being very ashamed of who they were and so this, to take that and to transform it into something that we should all feel is this pride in our heritage and who we are.”

When the exhibit is over, Fehr will gift the bowls to Métis women across Manitoba.

Heartbeat of a Nation is on now and it runs from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16.