To combat harmful stereotypes, an Anishinaabe makeup artist has launched a photography series that focuses on empowerment, highlighting an array of strong, beautiful, and diverse Indigenous women.
It’s called Sisterhood.
“I wanted to do something more than just makeup to create a storytelling platform and this was the best way that I knew how to use my skills and my passion,” said Desiree Morrisseau-Keesick.
The 31-year-old, who lives in Winnipeg, said the series is about connecting Indigenous women through the art of photography, makeup, and storytelling.
It’s a way to flip the narrative of how Indigenous women are often invisible, misrepresented, or stereotyped in media and Canadian society. Morrisseau-Keesick said she grew up having to combat stereotypes and doesn’t want to see that happen to the next generation of Indigenous women and girls.
“I wanted to create a space and help rewrite the mainstream narrative around Indigenous women, and be able to amplify their stories of resilience, strength, and their love and courage,” she said.
Morrisseau-Keesick was inspired by KC Adams’s photo series Perception, which shows portraits of Indigenous Winnipeggers with and without racist labels.
Collaborating with Winnipeg photographer Chelsea Francisco of Chunky Photography, Morrisseau-Keesick adapted the project to include makeup artistry.
“Racism towards Indigenous people is very real and this was a creative way to get people to think twice before making harsh assumptions about what they think they see when they see an Indigenous person,” said Francisco.
“It has been very special and inspiring to read about each person’s experience with racism and also with being so resilient despite what they come up against. I am glad she asked me to be a part of this to educate myself more and be able to share and educate people around me.”
Ten Indigenous women are featured in the project to showcase an array of beauty and diversity of Indigenous women. Portraits are shared daily on social media and link back to a Q&A on Morrisseau-Keesick’s blog.
Each answers questions about who inspires them, their proudest accomplishments, and some of the harmful stereotypes they have faced as Indigenous women.
“It takes a lot of courage to get in front of a camera and get your photo taken to put yourself out there,” said Morrisseau-Keesick.
“If they see negative stereotypes they can say ‘no, that’s wrong.”
For Sarah Delaronde, being a participant in the project brought her outside of her comfort zone.
“Over the last year, I’ve been trying to boost my self-esteem and confidence and try to see myself the way my loved ones see me,” said Delaronde, who is Cree and Métis.
“I have a hard time stepping outside of my bubble and opening up to people because I’m so busy with my kids. To have that out in the world is pretty unnerving but great at the same time because I can show my kids and my younger relatives and look at all these strong Indigenous women.”
Morrisseau-Keesick said she hopes people see the beauty and courage from each of the women, and take the time to read each of their stories.
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