Anishinaabe artist crafts giant bead sculpture to honour SickKids patients


Using thousands of beads, an Anishinaabe artist has weaved a massive sculpture to represent the strength and resiliency of children who seek care at a Toronto hospital.

Monument to the Brave will be displayed in a new building at the Hospital for Sick Children which opens in 2023. 

“I’m really excited about this project and hope that it inspires more Indigenous folks to make more artwork,” said artist Nico Williams, who is from Aamjiwnaang First Nation in southwestern Ontario and now lives in Montreal.

Williams, who is known for his geometric beadwork, started the sculpture in September with his studio team. They stitched together the 90-centimetre sculpture with 250,000 beads, plus 3,000 others that were donated from the hospital’s Bravery Bead Program.

“This is so incredible being invited to do this sculpture, a work that is going to be monumental for these years to come for all these patients who are coming into SickKids,” said Williams.

“This work is something that really is going to represent the bravery of all these patients coming in and out of the hospital.”

Monument to the Brave consists of 250,000 beads, plus 3,000 others that were donated from SickKids’ Bravery Beads Program. (Submitted by the SickKids Foundation)

Since 2002, children have been given a bead for every procedure, test or treatment they go through at the hospital.

“The beads become badges of honour for the kids,” said SickKids Foundation CEO Ted Garrard.

“Children who have profound illnesses can be strong, they can overcome, they can endure all the kinds of medical procedures that they have to go through,” he said.

“I think it will give inspiration to other patients in the future. We know that there are others who are walking down the path we’re walking in terms of our health issues and we reflect on it, and take courage from it.”

Geoffrey Fang, 17, has collected hundreds of bravery beads during his hospital visits and donated some of them to the project. 

Geoffrey Fang, 17, was among the hundreds of patients to donate his bravery beads to the project. (Submitted by Geoffrey Fang)

“I think leaving behind a part of my story as a part of the Monument to the Brave is really a testament to myself, how I overcame my illness and beat all the odds to get where I am today,” said Fang.

Fang first went to SickKids in 2014 and was diagnosed with a rare immune system disease, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, and a rare form of blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome. He received a small yellow bear-shaped bead for the time he spent in isolation after a bone marrow transplant.

“By sharing my story, it also allows the Monument to the Brave to be a beacon of resilience, a beacon of hope to the new patients who walk through SickKids’ door every single day with all their fears and all their anxieties,” said Fang. 

“With all the beads from the bravery beads project and with Nico’s own work, it’s quite a breathtaking experience especially when you understand the meaning behind the monument.”



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