Stitching together Canadian stories
HAMILTON – Seventy indigenous groups, most of Canada’s main indigenous groups, are represented in the Quilt of Belonging, a textile art project made up of 263 blocks representing every nation that makes up Canada.
Each group was invited to produce a piece of fibre art, using the textiles, techniques and symbols that represent their cultural beauty. The quilt is Canada’s largest, most comprehensive art project, including the work of cultural groups from Victoria B.C. to Newfoundland to the Arctic, and is on displayed for free at the Cotton Factory gallery in Hamilton Ont. until August 16.
The quilt is approximately 120 feet long, and 10 feet high. Centred at the top of the quilt, is an unfinished block with the Maple Leaf represented.
“Some people are upset that the Canadian block is unfinished,” said one of the guides at the venue. “But myself and others have come to appreciate the fact that the unfinished block implies that Canada has not finished growing yet.”
Styles and materials used for each block vary widely, from gold embroidered silk to tapa cloth, from miniature carpets to bobbin lace, from beaded hides to oshie, each block finds a place of it’s own in the overall finished project.
“Together they record human history in textile, illustrating the beauty, complexity and sheer size of the human story,” reads a release on the quilt.
The quilt has been touring since 2005, yet this is the first time it has been on display in Hamilton.
The project was initiated and directed by artist Esther Bryan of Williamstown, Ont. It took roughly 6 and a half years and more than 46,000 volunteer hours to make. Work began on the project in 1998, and it was launched at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2005.
Bryan said that the quilt was made because it recognizes Canada’s diversity wile celebrating its common humanity. It is meant to be a lasting testimony to Canada’s heritage and identify. It reminds people that there is “a place for all”.
Each of the Six Nations are represented among the 70 indigenous groups of the quilt and a comment was left in the guestbook by an individual named Robert which reads:
An astounding accomplishment. I like the way the immigrant communities build on top of our First Nations — the initial building blocks of our great country. Reminds ourselves we still are a work in progress.
“The artist approached individuals from each people group and asked them to design he block themselves,” said the guide. “All she did was tell them the dimensions. The rest was up to the designer.”
The quilt is made up of eight sections and the entire exhibition fits into a custom designed travel system consisting of five boxes weighing 2,000 lbs. in total. Three nine ft. long boxes are equipped with suspended drums on which the quilt sections are rolled so as not to touch the sides of the box. Two shorter boxes contain the exhibition supports.