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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaching stories, part 5

"Where Is It That You Dwell?"

Updated: November 4, 2019

Edelsmid Tammo Geertsema Warffum trouwhanger collar necklace rose quartz turquoise

This morning I heard a song on the radio - a track by Gare Du Nord -  that caused me to think. At some point in the song, the lyrics go as follows: "Breathe in, breathe the quintessence of life, it's what it's all about."

It made me realize that, in a metaphorical way, it is inspiration that is the quintessence of life. After all, doesn't the word inspiration derive from the Latin verb inspirare, "to blow into or upon; to breathe into"?

But where does one find inspiration, or a vision, when it is needed most?

Collar necklace Zhaawano Giizhik

I believe that for an artist, the factor time is unimportant when it comes to design inspiration, or receiving a vision - your vision will appear sooner or later. Finding inspiration - or manidoo, as my Native ancestors used to call it -, is certainly not an easy task; after all it means descending to the depths of one's soul, or perhaps ascending to the supernatural realms of the manidoog and the aadizokaanag, the mysterious spirit helpers that dwell somewhere out there in the Universe. 

Do not think of it, however, as a heavy responsibility or even a burden, but as something intangible and weightless - like the breath you exhale when you rise to greet the cold morning sky.

Or the sight of a snow-soaked forrest gleaming in the morning sun after a freezing rain.

Or the sudden unexpected appearance of diamond dust in a winter sky.

Or perhaps like a nimbaawaagegan (ancestor-spirit), who, if you're lucky, comes wafting across from the other world to visit you in a dream, giving you directions and expanding your inner awareness.

Click here to view details of this necklace


=An invocation to the spirits=

The lessons of my Native ancestors teach us that if one wishes to acquire a waaseyaabindamowin (life-guiding vision), a manidoo (spirit) or an aadizookaan (spirit-helper) will come and give a person direction - as long as he or she prays in a good way.  

Giizhigoong w'da debweweshin, n'dewewiganim.
Aandi endanii'ag?

"My drumming shall resonate in the sky world.
Where is it that you all dwell?"

- Ancient Midewiwin invocation to the spirits of the sky*


I strongly believe in the law of serendipity, which, in the context of today's topic, mandates that one does not go about looking for inspiration; it will present itself to you. More often than not, the manidoo appears when you least expect it to happen, because there's usually something else, another interest or goal - sometimes as passionate or intensively felt as the thing you're looking for - that will lead you to it.

Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologistst, once said: Your vision will become clear when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” Inspiration comes from within, this is very true. Yet I also believe that a big part of it is somewhere out there; sometimes the spirits of our ancestors visit us and breathe their wisdom and visions into us. That, I believe, is the true meaning of inspiration. But we never know when or where it will visit us. All we can do is work hard, put our soul into our work, and keep our senses open.


Titanium collar necklace 18 carat tube fastening

Pendant white gold Seven Grandfathers


Read part 6 in the Teaching Stories series.


Hanger goud witgoud rose quarts bloedkoraal turkoois onyx
Vanochtend hoorde ik een song  op de radio - een track van Gard Du Nord - , met een tekst die me aan het denken zette. Het refrein ging als volgt: 

"Breathe in, breathe the quintessence of life, it's what it's all about".

("Adem in, adem uit... ademen is de kern en de definitie van leven.")

Deze woorden deden me beseffen dat, in figuurlijke zin, de essentie van ons leven wordt gevormd door inspiratie. Immers, is het woord inspiratie niet afgeleid van het Latijnse inspirare dat inademen of inblazen betekent - en is de adem nu juist niet de primaire bron van onze levensenergie?

Maar waar vinden we inspiratie, of een visioen, wanneer we het die hardst nodig hebben?

Ik geloof persoonlijk dat  de factor tijd onbelangrijk is waar het bijvoorbeeld gaat om het vinden van ontwerpinspiratie voor mijn sieraden, trouwringen en grafische kunst e.d., of om het vinden van een visioen. Uit ervaring weet ik dat deze zich vanzelf een keer aandient. 

Ik zie het wachten op inspiratie, of een visioen, dan ook niet als een verantwoordelijkheid die zwaar op me drukt maar eerder als iets gewichtloos, zoals de ijle adem die ik uitblaas wanneer ik naar buiten ga om de koude ochtendlucht te begroeten.

Of als de plotselinge verschijning van poolsneeuw, mysterieus glinsterend in de vroege zonneschijn.

Het is mijn ervaring dat inspiratie en visioenen zich juist openbaren wanneer je er niet op verdacht bent; gewoonlijk is er iets anders, een andere interesse of een ander doel - iets dat je misschien met evenveel passie en intensiteit ervaart als datgene waar je al zo lang naar op zoek bent - dat het creatieve proces plotseling op gang brengt...

Giizhigoong w'da debweweshin, n'dewewiganim.
Aandi endanii'ag?

"Het geluid van mijn drum zal weerklinken in de luchtwereld.
Waar is het dat jullie verblijven?"

- eeuwenoude Midewiwin-lied gericht aan de luchtgeesten


Ojibwe floral design


* Source: Basil Johnston, Ojibway Ceremonies. University of Nebraska Press, First Bison Book Printing 1990, p. 102.


Unieke trouwringen jewelry photography: by ZhaawanArt. AANDI ENDANII'AG? (Where Is It That You Dwell?) - 18K yellow gold, 14K white gold, blue titanium, turquoise, rose quartz, red coral, black onyx necklace. From the Manidoog ('Spirits') series.

About me and my sources of inspiration:

My name is Zhaawano Giizhik.  I am an American currently living in the Netherlands. As an artist and jewelry designer, I like to draw on the oral and pictorial traditions of my Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors from the American Great Lakes area. For this I call on my manidoo-minjimandamowin, or 'Spirit Memory'; which means I try to remember the knowledge and the lessons of my ancestors. The MAZINAAJIMOWINAN or ‘pictorial spirit writings’ - which are rich with  symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos. Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many  generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the coastline where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.

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