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The laughter of aunties


I recently listened to a CBC Ideas podcast called "A Story of Joy" with Jesse Wente (or on Ideas on Apple podcasts). If you have not listened to it, I highly recommend it. It offers a perspective on the ongoing story of indigenous people in North America, and other parts of the world. It's about relationships, sovereignty, justice, strength, tenderness, laughter, and so much more.


Stories of joy are carried by the Aunties. In the beginning of the podcast Jesse Wente says,

"One of my favourite sounds in the world is when our aunties laugh...I've been fortunate enough to travel the world and visit with a lot of Indigenous aunties. And they all laugh."
When asked what their laughter sounds like, Wente himself laughed, paused, then said: "It sounds like home. It sounds like comfort … sounds like a hug, if that makes sense."

Wente's snippets of stories create a vivid picture of aunties, their unique status and the roles they play in the life of children and the community as a whole. Aunties may be related to each other by blood, but that is not required for membership in the Aunties club.


When I listened to the podcast I immediately thought of my friend Trish, and how grateful I am to have been present at the moment captured in this photo. Trish is an indigenous woman from Northern Ontario. In addition to being a woman, she is also a mother, a sister, a niece, a daughter, a granddaughter, and a member of this special class of people known as "aunties".


There is the cliche that "a picture's worth a thousand words", but the flipside of this is that a thousand words may just be a lot of words that don't make sense. Sometimes though, a picture, or a photograph can be a window into a rich and vital world connected to, and embodied in the person seen through the lens. Waiting and watching through the lens has taught me that this world exists...for everyone.


As I look through the thousands upon thousands of photographs I have taken, I am drawn to share the ones that leave me feeling and thinking that "I want to know more" about this person, about who they are, where they come from, how they see the world, what they think.


I am fortunate to have gotten to know bits and pieces of Trish, but the picture reminds me that within each person we meet, there is so much more to know, more joy, sorrow, laughter, tenderness, and strength. I hope that "Auntie Trish's" photograph can open a pause in you to reflect on the rich world of aunties in your life, and maybe even your role as auntie.


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