The Gift of a Lifetime

The Gift of a Lifetime
Posted on 03/24/2021
Patience Commanda and her paintingThe traditions of her Ojibwe culture mean everything to Patience Commanda, a Grade 9 student at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School in Orillia. She is also very passionate about remembering and honouring the missing and murdered Indigenous women of our country. As an assignment for her virtual Media Arts class, Patience shared an incredible photo. Here is the story behind it.

Last summer she participated in a virtual “Red Dress” special competition, something that she’s been actively involved in for most of her life and a tradition that is an important part of her Ojibwe background. This year her red jingle dress was new, and although the jingles are usually added one at a time, each day, for an entire year, Patience’s new dress was completed more quickly and in time for the competition.

“The dress is heavy, adorned with 365 jingles,” revealed Patience. This year she added to her regalia, with a distinctive red handprint, painted on her beautiful face, across her mouth. “The handprint took the red jingle dress to the next level. It was a strong symbol, to represent women being silenced, and not able to tell their stories.”

When Patience’s image appeared on her family’s social media, it quickly caught the attention of Chief Lady Bird, a Chippewa and Potawatomi artist, illustrator, educator, and community activist from Rama First Nation and Moose Deer Point First Nation. Chief Lady Bird’s art focuses on foregrounding the experiences of Indigenous women. It’s obvious why the two women are forever friends, as they are united by their hope for a future that learns from the past.

Chief Lady Bird agreed to recreate the striking image of Patience in an almost life-size painting. The painting is one of Patience’s most valuable possessions and a gift that she will always treasure. Through the power of social media, the painting was noticed and celebrated by the National Arts Centre. It appeared on their website and social media accounts, in a story that was published on February 12, 2021. “February 14 is a day to honour the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual people, and acknowledge the grassroots initiatives that continue to raise awareness and engage a variety of voices in the discussions that will drive reconciliation in Canada.” (National Arts Centre website)

Thank you Patience, for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to many, and your neverending hope and quiet, powerful voice are uplifting.