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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Teaching Stories, part 22



"Life Is a Dance"


Udated Zaagibaa-giizis (Budding Moon)/ Namebine-giizis (Suckerfish Moon); May 28, 2019

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Life Is a Dance Anishinaabe style wedding rings by ZhaawanArt
Visit the website to view details of the wedding ring set Bimaadiziwin Niimiwin ("Life Is a Dance").


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Native people know that everything in Creation has spirit. The plants, the trees, the water, the wind, the rocks and the mountains have spirit. The sky world, including the moon and other planets, has spirit. All of these are part of our first family, the natural world.

- Anishinaabe proverb

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Boozhoo, biindigen, hello, welcome!

Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge where legends and teaching stories are told. This blog story is the 22th in a series titled Teaching Stories.

The series features my jewelry and works of art, occasionally along with images of paintings by kindred artists. The stories thematically connect the jewelry and artwork displayed with the Seven Grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe People.

Today's story features a beautiful mixed media artwork by my friend, the late Moses Amik from the fly-in reserve north of Thunder Bay, Summer Beaver, Ontario (Nibinamik), and three sets of wedding rings made by hand in my studio. Feel free to visit my website to view my jewelry and wedding rings.

To live is to dance

The concept of mino-bimaadiziwin, or Good Life (how to live a good life), which is the central theme of the Anishinaabe worldview, reflects our journey on Earth and our connection to all Creation. The above set of wedding rings, featuring outlined dancing spirit suns" or spirit seeds" rich with movement and vibrant colors, celebrates the versatility and colorfulness of Life itself. The design of the wedding rings graphically illustrates the - often invisible -  spiritual powers that seem to dance through the atmosphere infusing and surrounding all living things in nature. They are symbols of a very old tradition and of the most sacred art - as practiced for thousands of years by the Anishinaabeg and Cree Peoples from the northern woods of the Turtle Island (North American) continent.

MariJo Moore, a Cherokee/Dutch poet, once wrote the following, breathtaking words:



I hope you dance
to dance is to pray, 
to pray is to heal,
to heal is to give,
to give is to live,
to live is to dance.


I think these words perfectly match the overlay, multicolor gold wedding rings shown above. The set is titled Bimaadiziwin Niimiwin (Life is a Dance). The ring on the left consists of red gold on the outside and yellow gold on the inside; the spirit suns"- inlay is made of yellow, red, and white gold. The ring on the right I made of white gold (outside) and red gold (inside); the spirit suns are red gold.
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Moses Amik Beaver, One Body One Spirit
One Body One Spirit, mixed media by te late Ojibwe painter Moses Amik

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Dancing Spirits


The ring sets shown to the left and beneath are constructed in combinations of red, yellow, and white gold. Like the Life Is a Dance” rings they are rich with movement and warmly contrasting colors and feature fluid, wavy spirit lines” connected by four inlaid spirit suns” orspirit seed” designs. The flowing lines express the belief that the world is a dynamic universe filled wth positive as well as negative energy that, like a river, flows through it like a spring flows clearly through the heart of mother earth.

The orb-like symbols, which are connected by these spirit lines, refer to the inner journey of two companions on the Path of Life, looking for the heart of mother earth, searching for the essence of life and the love that binds them.

The ring set, made of 14K red gold (the exteriors) and 14K yellow gold (the interiors) and yellow gold sun inlays, is titled Giizisoog Niimi'idiwag (Sun Spirits Are Dancing). Visit the website to view details of the ring set.


My spirit flows free like a river


These wedding rings consist of 14K red gold (the left ring) and 14K white gold (the right ring). The title of the ring set is Ninjichaag Babaamibizo (“My Spirit Moves Freely”).
The title, the stylized design as well as the colors of these overlay wedding rings are a metaphor for our spirit which, despite all rational constraints and limitations we tend to create for ourselves, is essentially as free as the flight of a bird – or the course of a river. 
The sun designs of the rings, which stand for concentrated, tightly clenched energy, are inlaid with smaller gold orbs of different colors; one of these inlaid designs (see the ring to the left) consists of two halves of contrasting gold colors. This unity symbol represents the sharp contrasts and the paradoxical dualities that exist in nature. It expresses the notion that everything is made up of two elements that seem at first sight contradict each other but in reality complement each other.
The inlaid orbs (sun symbols) connected by means of a free-flowing spirit line, symbolize illumination and enlightenment. Naturally, these sun symbols (orbs) also have a meaning that goes far beyond the corporeal and the obvious.
The flowing spirit line design, which resembles a free-flowing river, coupled with the word babaamibizo (fly about) refers to a place beyond language, like a Spiritual realm, or a ceremony. It also implies the movement of Spiritual energy, which, in a Midewiwin context, is ritualized in certain secret ceremonies.

Visit the website to view details of the ring set.


All three ring sets that you see in this blog story - Life Is a Dance, Sun Spirits Are Dancing, and My Spirit Moves Freely - belong to the wedding ring line 
Nibwaakawin (Wisdom). Wisdom is one of seven ring lines I designed; Grandfathers as I like to call them. The other six Grandfathers are LoveRespectCourageUprightnessHumility, and Truth.
Let's all try to live according these lessons...

 Read the next episode in the Teaching Stories seriies: We Are All Related.
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About me and my sources of inspiration:



Trouwringen ontwerper Zhaawano Giizhik
My name is Zhaawano Giizhik. 
As an American artist and jewelry designer currently living in the Netherlands. 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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