“My heart overflows with love for the beauty of this world, The mystery of this planet and this universe is too vast and too powerful to even begin to understand. All I know is that all life, even the rocks, need to be treated with respect.” ~ Christi Belcourt
Christi Belcourt is a Metis artist raised in Ontario. She is the daughter of Indigenous rights leader Tony Belcourt and Judith Pierce Martin. She is well known as a painter but has been practicing traditional arts such as Métis floral beadwork and has merged both art forms in her creations.
Belcourt is inspired by the beauty of the natural world and traditional Indigenous world-views on spirituality and natural medicines. She has written a book Medicine to Help Us that contains centuries old healing traditions of Metis women. Belcourt’s fascination with traditional arts has inspired her to work with beads, hides, clay, copper, wool trade cloth, and most recently birch bark.
Christi Belcourt was named the 2014 Aboriginal Arts Laureate by the Ontario Arts Council and short-listed for the 2014 and 2015 Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Her works can be seen at the National Gallery of Canada, the Gabriel Dumont Institute, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Belcourt was also commissioned to create “Giniigaaniimenaning (Looking Ahead)” to commemorate the resilience and strength of residential school survivors and their descendants. and the historic apology from the Prime Minister. The artwork is a stained glass for permanent exhibit above the main entrance for the members of parliament in Centre Bloc, Parliament Hill.
Christi Belcourt’s own explanation of the stained glass mural: “The story begins in the bottom left corner of the glass, with your eye moving upwards in the left panel to the top window and flowing down the right window to the bottom right corner. The glass design tells a story. It is a story of Aboriginal people, with our ceremonies, languages, and cultural knowledge intact; through the darkness of the residential school era: to an awakening sounded by a drum; an apology that spoke to the heart; hope for reconciliation; transformation and healing through dance, ceremony, languages, and resilience into present day. The title of the piece translated from Ojibway into English means ‘Looking Ahead’ and includes, within the deeper meaning of the word, the idea that everyone is included and we are all looking ahead for the ones unborn.”
In 2012, Christi helped start the Walking With Our Sisters project to honour the lives of murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States. The project took flight and has evolved in a seven year touring memorial involving over 1500 artists and thousands of volunteers. Her work has been the focus of two documentary films So Much Depends Upon Who Holds The Shovel directed by Wayne Peltier and A Life in Balance directed by Kathy Browning. She has also written another book Beadwork and co-wrote Jeremy and the Magic Ball. Christi is part of the Onaman Collective along with Erin Konsmo and Isaac Murdoch. All three artists are dedicating their work and lives to social change and justice for Indigenous people. One of their goals is to preserve, recover, and develop traditional art forms—something which is very important to Christi Belcourt.