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Towards Braiding

February 9, 20229 February 2022

Indigenous arts: Resources for imagining, thinking, and working toward decolonization

Musagetes Foundation


Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti, with Sharon Stein

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This qualitative, Indigenous-centred book provides an insightful perspective of Indigenous-settler relations, which could be particularly useful for organizations that are working toward decolonization. The book “is based on conversations that have happened during an ongoing collaborative process between Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti as part of their work with Musagetes, a foundation with a mandate to make the arts more central and meaningful in peoples’ lives, in our communities and societies.”

The book offers the metaphors of “construction bricks” and “knitting threads” as ways of understanding different perspectives on life. “Brick sense and sensibilities stand for a set of ways of being that emphasize individuality, fixed form and linear time”, while “thread sense and sensibilities stand for a set of ways of being that emphasize inter-wovenness, shape-shifting flexibility and layered time”. The book identifies ways of being, ways of knowing, and communications tendencies associated with each perspective.

Braiding is defined in the book “as a practice yet-to-come located in a space in-between and at the edges of bricks and threads, aiming to calibrate each sensibility towards a generative orientation and inter-weave their strands to create something new and contextually relevant, while not erasing differences, historical and systemic violences, uncertainty, conflict, paradoxes and contradictions”.

Many tips for success in braiding (or decolonization) work are provided, such as:

  • Starting from the potentially generative place of not-knowing
  • Approaching things differently and engaging based on “the importance of humility, continued learning, and centring relationships”
  • Exhibiting patience, generosity, and risk-taking
  • Identifying and using “generative” language regarding settler–Indigenous relations, socially engaged art, philanthropy focussed on social transformation, and organizational decision-making.
  • Asking key questions regarding “your expectations, your intentions, and the impact of your choices, and [thinking] systemically [about] how these are rooted in a larger social and historical context”.

Necessary conditions for braiding and pitfalls to avoid are also offered in the book. Some of the pitfalls that could even affect organizations with “a genuine yearning for deeper connections and relationships” are:

  • Failing “to imagine that other ways of working, collaborating and relating are possible”
  • Only incorporating “non-threatening Indigenous content” and implementing superficial changes
  • Instrumentalization, tokenism, and unrealistic expectations of Indigenous workers

Recommendations are provided in working toward braiding, i.e., “working towards the possibility of a very different way of being together that requires the interruption of the dominant colonial habits of being”.

The final section of the book identifies areas for further investigation, including “relationships between Indigenous and racialized communities; Indigenous and decolonizing approaches to climate change; and the internal heterogeneity of Indigenous communities. These three intentions remind us of the many complexities that are involved in braiding work, and how these complexities operate in multiple layers simultaneously.”

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