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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Annora and the Blackfoot connection

Annora Brown 1957
Joyce Sasse - Imagine overhearing Annora Brown visiting with Joe and Josephine Crowshoe, who became spiritual leaders of the Piikani people.

The ominous dust clouds of the ‘30’s hung heavy. South Alberta was being invaded by thousands of immigrants who, with a voracious appetite, were bent on trampling and claiming land, tilling and fencing fields.

Not only had Indians been forced to live on Reserves under heavier and heavier restrictions, but the Government pursued a policy of forced integration. Family structures, language and cultural practices were being systematically demolished.

Joe Crowshoe said it best. “We are a lost and bewildered generation” caught between the ways of old people and the pull of the world that surrounds us.

Annora, with her gift for words and painting, resolved to capture what she could of the Aboriginal culture. Josephine Crowshoe quietly provided opportunities for her to learn and capture glimpses of this ancient and proud people.

Brown’s affirmations are there in the “Old Man’s Garden” manuscript, which was mostly written in the ‘30’s. We see even more affirmations in the number of paintings of indigenous art she turned over to the Glenbow Museum for preservation.

Included in those water-colour paintings are scenes of community celebrations - like the Tipi Villages at the Fort Macleod and Calgary Stampedes. She also focused on the art and design found in their clothing and wrote why she felt compelled to do this. “The art of the Plains Indians has been slighted because of the transitory quality of the materials from which it was made.”

Her portraiture of Pat Bad Eagle, Bob Tail Feathers and Jerry Potts remind us that they honoured her with their “sitting” even as she honoured them with her painting.

What about the wonderful oil paintings of the dancing? You can almost feel the beat of the drums for the “Prairie Chicken Dance”. Vivid colours contrast with delicate feathered adornments. Sharp angles reflect the unique actions of the chickens in their mating dance.

In the “Hoop Dance” painting even the headdress feathers are given circular motion. The whole canvas is full of circles and action.

What a legacy! Artist with a mission!

Related link: Annora Brown’s Paintings at Glenbow


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