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Canada's entry at Venice Biennale shows how glass beads shaped the modern world

Over the years, 60 Canadian artists have won the honour of showing their work in a small, angular, wood-and-glass pavilion that sits on the end of the Venice lagoon.

But this is the first time an artist has draped the pavilion in luscious strings of cobalt-blue beads that shift and soften the outline of the building.

The beads provide the opening glance of Trinket by Hamilton-born, Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga, Canada’s representative at this year’s Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious art show.

In her exhibit, Kiwanga literally and metaphorically connects the dots — glass bead by glass bead — of trade that radiated out around the globe from Venice, once one of Europe’s most important ports, and the impact that had.

For centuries, the beads, called conterie, were produced on the nearby glassmaking island of Murano and used as currency and for barter, taking off in the 16th century as European traders and explorers expanded their global reach.

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