Raechel Wastesicoot: Kenatentas

January 27th, 2024 – June 9th, 2024

Installation of Kenatentas at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2024. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Join us in celebrating the opening of Kenatentas on Saturday, January 27 from 2-3:30pm. More details here.

Raechel Wastesicoot is a mixed Kanien’kehá:ka beadworker born and raised in Oshawa and currently based in Toronto. Growing up just minutes from the gallery, the RMG has long served as a personal site of inspiration and respite to Wastesicoot. In her debut exhibition, Kenatentas, she has created twelve beaded artworks in response to paintings and drawings from the RMG’s Permanent Collection by members of Ontario’s abstract collective, Painters Eleven. Presented alongside short poems written by the artist, each work, while formally referencing its historical counterpart, recalls a very specific moment or relationship in Wastesicoot’s life that has challenged or changed her.

Wastesicoot began beading in 2020 as a way of connecting to her Mohawk culture. For thousands of years, the practice of beading has been utilized by Indigenous Peoples to record and share cultural knowledge. Enduring today, beadwork has been taken up en masse by a new generation of young Indigenous artists. As a social activity, beading circles promote community-building and knowledge sharing, carving pathways to wider networks of cultural dialogue. As an individual practice, the slowness is described by many as meditative and healing.

In Kenatentas, Wastesicoot intimately revisits moments of her past, bead by bead honouring, and in some cases rewriting, the stories that have made her who she is today. Using playful materials and colours, she nurtures her younger self and tends to intergenerational trauma deeply rooted in the place that for 22 years she called home. Hung alongside the artwork that inspired her as child, Wastesicoot asserts herself, and by extension, contemporary Indigenous beadwork, within the ongoing story of abstraction in Canada.

Raechel Wastesicoot is a mixed Kanien’kehá:ka beadworker and land-based communications specialist. Her mother’s family is from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and her father’s family immigrated to Toronto from Northern Italy in the early 1960s. Her spirit name is Mein-gun Kwe, meaning wolf woman, which was gifted to her by an Ojibway Elder. Following a teaching passed down to her: from the land, for the land, and by the land, her beadwork comprises contemporary pieces featuring upcycled, vintage, and harvested materials. With the land and sustainability at the centre of her approach, the pieces she creates aim to have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible, and heavily feature gifts from the land, including antler, fur, hides, and porcupine quills.

This exhibition is presented with support from the Government of Ontario through the Tourism Relief Fund.