A new exhibition detailing the lives, stories and traditions of the Anishinaabeg is set to open this weekend at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Anishinaabeg: Art & Power goes back through several hundred years of art, focusing on beadwork and paintings of the Woodlands School, a genre of painting among Indigenous artists from the Great Lakes area.

The exhibition is curated by the ROM's Arni Brownstone in collaboration with guest curators Alan Corbiere and Saul Williams.


Historian Alan Corbiere is a co-curator of the exhibit. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"For Anishanaabe people, the symbol is the power — and the symbol and the power represent the spirit," Corbiere told CBC Toronto.

He pointed to pictographic representations seen throughout the exhibition, like images of thunderbirds.

"When you put that particular symbol on a rock, you're honouring the spirit that lives there. But when you put it on your clothing, you're also saying, 'This is part of who I am. This is part of our identity.'"

Saul Williams

Painter Saul Williams is a co-curator and has a piece in the exhibition. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Williams is a painter and Woodlands School of Art member from North Caribou Lake First Nation in northern Ontario. He said the curators' goal with the exhibition is to connect museum-goers with the Indigenous community.

"In my paintings I tell our people's stories, our legends — because our legends were used as a teaching tool before there was a school," he said.

Anishinaabeg: Art & Power beading

Some traditional Anishinaabe beading. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Anishinaabeg: Art & Power opens Saturday, June 17 and runs until mid-November. The exhibit is included in the ROM's general admission price.

With files from Dwight Drummond