wêpinâsowina: offerings (to the spirits)
The idea for this offering began in early 2001 when I was first introduced to some discourse regarding the interactive capabilities of online databases - specifically the user's ability to choose their own narrative path. I was also starting to understand search engines, metatags, tags and keywords and in concert with the concept of 'the ghost in the machine' (and related phenomena), was thinking about the human mind's discernment of prayers and requests as predicated via any specific worldview. And I was thinking about alchemy: how words, intent, materials, elements transmute into other substances, realities and realms. In realtime, I had been thinking about how I would describe cyberspace to an old person/elder - what element(s) would one say it was derived from and in what elemental domain does it exist? and importantly, does the sun shine, waters flow, grass grow and wind blow there?
By this time, the world wide web was also already full of animated gifs, flash and quicktime movies and I began to notice the effect animated graphics had - either immensely annoying or alternately pleasing and calming effect on the mind depending on one's association/relationship with the image and the sender. This became meaningful data for me especially after long bouts and seemingly endless days and nights in front of a computer monitor. Around this time I had also started visiting online divination sites (see the links page) and found solace there sometimes late at night - due to interactive capabilities and perceived kinaesthetic connections, but also because it started to feel like I had someplace to go and pray and some sort of trace of the activity to continue to meditate on and find insight to assist me on my life journey.
Since my first interactions with this new domain (aka cyberspace) in 1993-94, I have had only relatively good experiences - the only bad ones being when my server is hacked or crashes and limits my access to my work or when I accidentally send an email without checking to see to whom it is being cced to - that sort of thing. Servers have become an extension of my studio and desktop where I think, observe, evolve and work; and where I can then disseminate and share information, findings and meaning.
My good experiences are many: from working with grandmothers on reserve, giving them their first hands on tours of a computer and the internet, to having long-lost adopted friends' and families' children email me to make contact, to being invited via email to other parts of the world to present my work, share this Cree worldview I am dedicated to and be enabled to strengthen the ever-widening web of relations all over our mother, the earth.
Finally, this site is part of my ongoing commentary about identity. As an âpihtawi-kosisân iskwêw (halfbreed woman) with a nêhiyawin (cree worldview) gaze, my research and experience is that there is not any single flag, design or emblem that denotes a sense of collectivity or nationhood. There are many images that have been ascribed, adopted with great emotional and historical significance and as I have learned, many more lost or in contention, yet still not any one symbol or icon dynamic enough to be definitive.
This site, dedicated to the memory of the late Mr. Andy Naytowhow, is based on the system that he taught me and so many who were fortunate enough to have been in his generous gaze (please refer to the homage page). From my years and experience living in northern Saskatchewan with the Naytowhow family, nêhiyawin (cree worldview) is a process of many ceremonial and social societies that observe, celebrate our talents and gifts, and enact our ongoing relationship with nature and the phenomenal connections that exist with the natural and spiritual worlds. Somewhat similar to Tibetan observances, the hanging of prayer flags is to make contact with the spiritual realm (please refer to Ahasiw's text here and/or refer to Daina Warren's essay here). wêpinâsowina is my attempt to say that even in cyberspace - our ancestors and the spirits are witnessing us and that guidance is possible if we use our words in a good way.
"The mechanics of computer terminology and the internet work to effectively to also explain the ceremonial process of the spiritual preparations of wêpinâsowina - from collecting rocks, prayers, singing, watering etc together and in harmony so that a favourable outcome will occur." Joseph Naytowhow (from a recent email conversation, (cc) 2006) In this same way, this project could not have existed without the stellar collaboration, good intent, generous willingness and interest of a variety of specialists - programmers, ceremonialists, linguists, designers, curators, artist-run centre staff, critical writers, sysops and colleagues (please refer to the shoutouts page for a full listing).
With this offering, it is my intention to present an option for insight into a similar process. It is not meant in any way as a joke or substitution or artifice, but a gentle and pleasing reminder that wherever we are, we can hope and pray - and that the wind indeed continues to blow and carry our hopes and dreams, worries and woes to be heard by our ancestors and all the spirits. I hope you find some solace here - tawâw (welcome / there's lots of room).
Cheryl L'Hirondelle, 2006
Cheryl L'Hirondelle (aka Waynohtêw, Cheryl Koprek) is an Alberta born but currently a Vancouver based, halfbreed (Metis/Cree-non status/treaty, French, German, Polish) multi/interdisciplinary artist.