Image by Eva Francis-Work

Hart House seeks to engage historically underrepresented communities and ensure that students and members see themselves reflected in the life of the House. A partnered event on October 20, Maamawi: Tattoo Gathering 2023, aims to do just that: build community.

“This gathering is about love, healing and connection,” says Justin Moore, Supervisor, Youth Engagement at the Native Youth Resource Centre (NYRC), Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. He has been working with Hart House and First Nations House, planning a very special event, a tattoo gathering called Maamawi, slated for October 20.

Justin Moore, Supervisor, Youth Engagement at the Native Youth Resource Centre, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

"Maamawi is an Anishinaabeg word that means together. That’s the spirit of the event,” he explains. “It's about bringing community together to honour our ancestors and our traditional practices. It's also about providing opportunity for our youth to practice ceremony and to hold space for healing.”

Indigenous tattooing is a traditional art form that conveys identity, history and culture for many Indigenous populations around the world. It is considered an important part of the revitalization, restoration and reclamation movement of Indigenous Nations across Turtle Island.

At the event, on October 20 from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm in Hart House’s Great Hall and the Quad, participants can receive tattoos by Indigenous artists. The gathering is open to the public, but the primary audience for the tattoos is Indigenous youth 18 to 29 years of age, including University of Toronto students.

Maamawi: Tattoo Gathering 2023 will be held at Hart House October 20.

The day also features an Indigenous youth maker and artisan fair, music and food. Hart House Executive Chef and Culinary Operations Manager Marco Tucci and the NYRC Chef Michael Maracle have connected to jointly plan the food with a focus on Indigenous cuisine.

Justin was inspired by an experience at the start of the year at NYRC. “We have monthly Maamawi events at the Centre where we spotlight, showcase and provide access to culture,” he explains. “Back in January, we had a smaller event with two Indigenous artists who are actually going to be at the Hart House event: Crystal Kimewon and Saga Kwandibenz. They provided Indigenous art flash as well as traditional handpoke and clan markings,” he says, adding, “The response to that earlier January event was overwhelming and it gave us a firsthand glance at the need for this connection in the community.”

He describes what will make this event at Hart House so special. “When we gather tattoo artists from across the city, across the province and across Turtle Island, we provide the youth with a unique opportunity to access culture in a way that maybe they don't have readily available to them, or that they don't know how to access. It also provides an opportunity to spotlight prominent Indigenous artists and community role models.”

The event will be held in Hart House’s Great Hall, which features the public sculpture, "Waabidiziiyan doopwining (To see oneself at the table)", by Indigenous artists Rebecca Belmore and Osvaldo Yero.

Anticipation has been building at Hart House. “We’re very excited about this event. The House has partnered with NYRC for six years to provide recreation-based programming. This year, we were approached about co-hosting this event, which NYRC had previously ran in its own space. We hope this becomes an annual event for us,” says Day Milman, manager, Integrated Arts Education.

“This is a hugely meaningful way for the House to build community, foster a climate of inclusivity and belonging in our spaces and programs, and encourage students to explore who they are and who they aspire to be through the arts,” she adds.

Justin has enjoyed planning the event with the House’s team. “This collaboration has been amazing! Throughout the process, Hart House has been extremely supportive. It's always a privilege and an honour to work alongside allies and other Indigenous folks. It's always felt, to us, like it was just as important to Hart House as it was to us, and everything was done in a good way.”

More information can be found on the event details page.

PLease note that safety protocols will be in place.