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Wisdom: Giinawind – the inclusive “we”

Giinawind Co. is an Indigenous founded and operated collective art space
Giinawind Co Logo
Giinawind Co.

Giinawind Co. is an Indigenous founded and operated collective art space that hosts a variety of artists and organizations with the aim to bring a mixture of contemporary and traditional Anishinaabe art to all Thunder Bay residents.

“Everyone always asks ‘inclusive we?’, yes, inclusive we means that when we’re saying ‘we’, we mean everybody and not just a certain group of people, as opposed to the exclusive we,” said Jacenia Desmoulin, founder.

“The point of naming it Giinawind was that we wanted to be inclusive to everybody, and not just we, and even though we’re Indigenous founded and Indigenous led, we didn’t want to be Indigenous exclusive.”

Desmoulin started tattooing as a hobby and worked from her home for many years she had noticed that there weren’t many opportunities to learn in an Indigenous tattoo space to be able to bring her people's art and traditions into the medium.

“My clients kept asking me, ‘when are you going to work in a studio?’, ‘when are you going to open your own studio?’, and I’d say ‘I work two jobs! I’m not going to do that! That’s a lot of work!’” said Desmoulin.

“And then, over the summer last year was very chaotic for me, both very, very good and very, very bad with the pandemic and everything. I was laid off from my job that was going to be my forever job, so I didn’t really know what I was going to do after that - I was really lost.”

Desmoulin said an experience hiking the perimeter of the sleeping giant helped give her perspective. Her guide backed out, but she decided to continue on alone with only a single bottle of water and one granola bar, not realizing the hike would be 30 kilometres, and it was getting dark.

“So, it was dark, I was crying, I thought my feet were bleeding, I was screaming into the woods because I was lost, I had no idea where I was. But it gave me a lot of perspective on, what am I doing with my life, is this really what I want to be doing?” said Desmoulin.

“I looked at all of the plans I make, how much I plan my life and it never works out the way that I intend it to, so, I decided I was going to focus more on my tattooing because that was something I was really passionate about.”

During her next vacation, Desmoulin spoke to one of her clients about her vision for a studio. She didn’t want it to be just a tattoo studio and she didn’t want it to be just about her.

Another requirement for Desmoulin’s studio space was that she wanted it to be in Westfort, as she’d seen that most creative spaces in Thunder Bay were in the Port Arthur area and she found the perfect space near city hall.

Giinawind Co. hopes to be able to host workshops for youth so that they have a space to come and feel safe, hopefully learn more about culture and art, paint something, make some music, or if they’re passionate about tattooing, possibly offer them an apprenticeship.

Desmoulin has taken a step back from tattooing in order to take on a director role in the company, but her passion still lies in the art.

Giinawind Co. also features tattoo artist Dean McColeman and Benjamin Murray with Earthling Art Collective.

For more information on the organization, visit their website.


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