The richness of the territory’s art and culture was on display at a pop-up gallery in Yellowknife last week.
Cousins Dora Blondin and Rosemary Elemie from Deline manned a table laden with beaded moccasins, each made with tanned hide, hand-beaded tops and beaver fur. The two were taught to sew in their early teenage years and are now passing on their knowledge to their children, grandchildren and young people in their community.
“Nowadays the kids don’t know how to sew,” said Blondin, who teaches traditional skills to school children in Deline. “I show them how to start sewing, and then they start sewing. They want to finish it right away and want to put it on. And I say, ‘In your time.’”
Rosemary said she sometimes beads eight hours or more per day. For her, it is a way to relieve stress. She showed the beadwork her daughter and granddaughter have completed, expressing pride at passing on a tradition she learned from her own mother.
Briony Wright, communications officer with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, said this is the first year the department has organized a pop-up gallery.
“Our focus is try to represent each of the regions and each of the art genres, so we’ve got performing art, we’ve got literature, we’ve got traditional arts and crafts like birchbark baskets, we’ve got painting and carving,” she said.
The aim is to give the public the chance to interact with and touch artwork from across the territory.
Across the room from Blondin and Elemie, two women sat stooped over a table laden with birch bark. Karen Cumberland threaded dyed porcupine quills through a layer of birch bark as her mother Martine Kotchea wet down and bent the quills in preparation. Cumberland and her mother are from Fort Liard.
Yellowknife outdoor artist Diane Boudreau, a biologist who worked for many years in architecture, brought a collection of brightly painted fish to the gallery. She shared her passion for giving back to the NWT through art workshops in the communities.
“So we paint fish, berries and birds. It is from my culture and their culture so we have something in common,” she said. “I give workshops, but I always hope some kids will continue on their way because there are a thousand ways to paint.”