Wisdom: Artists on the north coast: Bruno Henry, fringe and fashion

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Bruno Henry produces; clothes, jewellery, photographs, paintings, baskets, even music.

An elder once told Bruno, “The gift of creativity is given to you by the creator. As an artist, you are a storyteller, a keeper of history. That’s your goal.”

That theme is woven into everything Bruno Henry produces; clothes, jewellery, photographs, paintings, baskets, even music. The list is never ending; he explains that there is a line through life that connects all things together, forming a pattern of chaos. Kahowahkeho, the Cayuga name given to him by his clan mother meaning ‘canoes lined the shore’, speaks of those patterns in his life. Everything is connected, and everything has a purpose.

His association with the Earth element has led him to the Superior North area of ​​Toronto. He and his girlfriend Kerry arrived at the Marathon on December 31, 2021, and happily embraced the peace and harmony of rural life. Their home is just a few minutes walk from the lake, and find the cool, fresh air, clear skies and spiritually healing sounds of nature.

Art has always been a part of Bruno’s life, but the medium has changed throughout his life. He started painting on canvas and paper, but soon expanded to new horizons. She wandered into the world of fashion, where she took an interest in traditional materials, using deer and deer skins to create matching garments, which she embellished with hand-stitched cotton, wool and embroidery with her own designs. To highlight her outfits, she began designing and making jewelry, and other new avenues opened up for her to follow. Materials such as rawhide, horns, pine needles, horsehair, and porcupine quills were used in jewelry making, allowing him to incorporate elements of nature into his work. To add beauty and color, she painted intricate designs on sheer, tanned rawhide earrings, bringing them back to their original love of painting. A full circle.

During her travels in the art world, she has had the opportunity to exhibit her work at Pow Wows, festivals, fashion shows, and art auctions throughout Canada and the United States. She appeared at the International Indigenous Fashion Week 2020 in Paris, France. Her designs have been worn by models in many prestigious contests and festivals, including the Mrs. Globe 2018, Karen Gaudry, representing ‘Mrs. Native American’, 2007’s Top Native Model search at the CANAB Festival in Toronto, and 2008’s L’Oreal Fashion Week, are just a few.

Despite the luxury and prestige of these shows and awards, Bruno is a very humble and very gentle being. He spoke calmly about his upbringing, and mentioned the many family members who had influenced his life in different ways. He silently mourned the loss of his nation’s culture, but without blame or anger. He was sadly disturbed to see so many mass-produced counterfeit art being sold in roadside gift shops and Pow Wow, but he understood. India’s act, which banned indigenous ceremonies and traditions until the mid-1960s, erased these images from the memory of its people. While he prefers that they value the original creations of original artists, this may be the only way that some can reclaim their lost culture, due to cost or circumstances. Their traditional art is re-illuminated.

The price factor is another dilemma. The work is time consuming and there are costs to it. One work can take 70, 80 hours or more to complete, but due to budget availability, the value of the work, and the value of all artists, is reduced. Customers know that true art comes at a cost, but are unwilling or unable to pay a fair price, so the artists suffer. But still they create.

In the end, art is priceless. As the elder told Bruno long ago, creators and storytellers keep our sacred images and traditions and the stories of our ancestors alive. We all have goals.

Bruno Henry is a recipient of the Ontario Council of Arts Indigenous Art Support Grant for 2022. He will exhibit and sell his art at community markets and stunning Pows throughout Northern Ontario this summer. You can connect with him on his website at: BrunoHenry.com or his Facebook page.

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