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'The most native BDSM thing ever': Dayna Danger's fetish masks challenge Indigenous sexuality taboos

Artist Dayna Danger's work has been taking the art world by storm, smashing taboos about Indigenous sex and sensuality along the way. One of her recent collections took inspiration from BDSM fetish masks, which are typically used for sex acts involving bondage, domination and submission.
Digital print of Adrienne Dagger, wearing one of Dayna Danger's fetish mask.
Listen7:40

Originally published February 11, 2018

Artist Dayna Danger's work has been taking the art world by storm, smashing taboos about Indigenous sex and sensuality along the way.

One of her recent collections took inspiration from BDSM fetish masks, which are typically used for sex acts involving bondage, domination and submission.

Danger said the idea for the collection originally started as a joke.

"It was this total joke, thinking of the most native BDSM thing ever, which would be a full fetish bodysuit, but beaded — just wrap yourself in beads," said Danger.

Considering a full bodysuit would take a very long time to bead, Danger decided to focus on fetish masks.
Dayna Danger: Metis. Saulteaux. Polish (Oscar Ocelotl Aguirre)

"The first prototype was based on a luchador mask, the Mexican wrestling fights masks," said Danger. "It's really kind of [like a] superhero mask, which is how I see these masks — vigilante or disguising your identity."

Each mask takes over 100 hours to make, and Danger hired two Indigenous women to help out with the beading.

Crafting as comfort

The masks marked the first time Danger incorporated beading into her art practice, which she said was inspired by her mother.

Danger recalled spending a lot of time in the basement of her childhood home, and has vivid memories of her mom working on her craft projects.

"There's this big fluorescent light she would put on, and she had all her crafting supplies in the basement, where she would make little dreamcatchers and earrings," said Danger.  

"I remember being so comforted by that, just knowing that that weird fluorescent light was on … I saw that act of making as comfort."
Dayna Danger's fetish masks are on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery until April 2018. (Courtesy of WAG)

Mixed reactions

Danger said that her art gets a lot of mixed reactions, but in the end she hopes it will spark conversations about Indigenous sex and sensuality.

Along the way, Danger has received a fair share of criticism.

She recalled speaking to a woman who was concerned about Danger's photography series which featured naked women holding animal skulls to cover their body parts.

"I remember this person wondering about the representation of Indigenous women, and showing our sexuality," said Danger.

"When these kind of things come up ... we need to have a lot of compassion, empathy, because there could be something inside of her that has told her that this is wrong."

And the criticism she faces only inspires her to continue to push boundaries, and smash taboos.

"That kind of criticism makes me feel like I need to do that more — okay, let me put a little bit more in your face, let's make you uncomfortable, because you're so complacent."