Birthing Tent (2021)

Photo by Kyra Kordoski

Birthing Tent (detail)
Daphne Boyer (Metis)
Canopy: Digital collage of individually photographed berries
Reactive dye printed on cotton velvet (United Kingdom)
Silk Ribbons: Digital collage of individually photographed berries Acid dye printed on silk twill (United Kingdom)
On loan from the artist

I created the two-part Birthing Tent to celebrate the life of my great-grandmother Éléonore. An itinerant midwife who criss- crossed the Northern Great Plains birthing babies, Éléonore was born on a buffalo hunt and raised her own children on an outpost with her trapper/fur-trader husband in the Red River region of Manitoba.

The tent canopy features a ‘beaded’ oxytocin molecule. (In contrast to another tiny particle, COVID-19, oxytocin is a ‘bonding hormone’ that plays a valuable role in regulating our social behaviour from birth to death.) I chose oxytocin because it reflects the high levels of social cohesion and bonding that exemplified Métis community life, including seasonal buffalo hunts.

The ‘beaded’ silk ribbons reference traditional ribbon skirts, symbols of Indigenous women’s power, resilience, and survival. Many such skirts have been created to honour the families and the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

In keeping with the generational aspect of the stories I tell – one story always leads to another – individual elements from the moss bag designs were used to create some ribbon patterns. Each ribbon symbolizes one of the babies Éléonore helped to birth.

Special thanks to Ann Hillyer who spent days in a tangle of silk threads on her dining room table expertly finishing the delicate edges of the ribbons. Trish Tacoma and Susan McCann from Smoking Lily assembled the tent canopy in their Victoria workshop. Lina Samoukova and Étienne Capacchione provided technical support for both the Birthing Tent and Moss Bag Triptych. Lorilee Wastasecoot and Roger Huffman were collaborative geniuses. Erin Macklem helped ‘birth’ the concept. Donald Sugden, my life partner, generously supports every aspect of my artmaking.

I also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, Montréal, arts interculturels and the Manitoba Museum.