When Tenille approached me with the idea for tea&bannock and told me about the commitment to mentoring, I panicked. I’m living in a brand new city and wasn’t sure who I could connect with. Besides that, I’m a solitary worker and since I don’t shoot very often my technical knowledge is rusty at best, so I wasn’t sure I’d have much to “teach”. Maybe I got some of that Imposter Syndrome as well.
The first person I thought of “mentoring” is my friend Tanis Worme, a natural artist and fun person to work with. When I began working on SuperMaidens in 2014, I was still living in Saskatoon and sharing a small studio on Avenue D. I put the call-out to 13 friends and acquaintances that I thought would be great at embodying a new Indigenous super hero: the SuperMaiden.
After a gruelling shoot, I didn’t have the time or energy to photograph myself and so I asked my fellow SuperMaiden, Tanis, if she wouldn’t mind directing and shooting me as the 14th Maiden. She enthusiastically agreed and did a great job; I thought she was a natural! Tanis is a talented artist and works in many different media; she’s also a dope tattoo artist!
For the second major shoot, I returned to Saskatoon and the previous experience taught me that I should probably have an assistant to help things go smoothly and so I asked Tanis to help out. I asked her to share a bit about her experience as a SuperMaiden both in front of and behind the camera, here’s Tanis:
It is terrific to join tea&bannock and share with you a bit of my journey with Joi’s series “The Beautiful NDN Supermaidens TM ”. I joined Joi for two group photoshoots, one of each instalment. The first shoot took place in October of 2014, which is when I discovered my SuperMaiden identity “Mimicree” by succumbing to my goofier side in front of the camera. The second shoot this past February, I was the helpful protégé; initially goading, but eventually motivating.
Some time had passed between photoshoots and though I thought periodically about my cheeky alter ego, I did not consider how she might have changed since her conception. She was an adaptable jokester; she didn’t make much fuss over anything, and maintained a light mood through laughter. And although I call upon that strength when the thunderous weight of reality creeps into my porous meatsuit, I see those around me drawn to the healing potential of it all. I need to poke fun and laugh, a lot, even if it gets me into trouble at times. This “power” gained from humour can be sinister in that surrender to its potential as a tool of manipulation can cause serious harm; as with any resource, it is our responsibility to utilize it sustainably, and cause the least amount of disturbance to the environment and beings around us.
The NDN SuperMaiden refreshes the connotation of the comic-book hero and their power. The comics I was subjected to as a kid, featured the individual hero-type. He imposes his wispy white way, and “humbly” hides among the masses. Hero and humanity collaborate to secure a natural order; the dichotomy of good and evil is reinforced.
When I daydream as a new and improved ass-kicking SuperMaiden, I consider her actions in situations where I’d been less than heroic. It’s satisfying to replay these scenarios while considering possible outcomes; but this way of thinking falsely suggests that the variables in our lives exist independently from each other and can be controlled by deterministic laws of the universe. I am adhering to the dichotomous construct: one path will result in heroism, the other, ultimate demise. However, being that our power is manifested through ancestral bloodlines and spiritual consciousness, it would be counterintuitive to express my abilities through a construct that is inherently different. Instead of accepting a path that ultimately conceptualizes our limits by defining the glass ceiling, we as SuperMaidens create a community that cultivates the creativity necessary to subdue such limitations.
Wearing my assistant hat during the photoshoot, I found power. Through a successful shoot, followed by silly bonding, we shared stories of our intuition, stories of our courage; we accepted our power and, even for mere moments, quashed our doubt. As Indigenous women we have a connection that cannot be confined by western conceptualization. We are connected to each other and that connection is our power: it is a gift we are bestowed from the Creator; it’s inherited from the moon and all stars in the multiverse; it’s established through respect of Mother Earth; and, it is nourished with the kindness we share with one another.