- Category: news
- Created: Monday, 23 September 2013 15:38
- Published: Monday, 23 September 2013 15:38
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By Rob Gowan, Sun Times, Owen Sound
Canada's arts history was celebrated this weekend as traditional First Nations arts and craftspeople were brought together for the Canadian Spirit Festival.
A new partnership formed between the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, which puts on the festival, and the Saugeen First Nation, highlighted the many talents of those in the First Nations arts and crafts community during the festival at Kelso Beach Park on Saturday and Sunday.
"I think it is a great opportunity because it is promoting the artistry and the craftsmen," said Lori Kewaquom, cultural and wellness co-ordinator at Saugeen First Nation. "At the same time it is cross cultural sharing because we also have the dancers and the drumming here in addition to the artists that are here. It is just letting people know we are here and we want to share with them what our culture is in a good way such as this."
Over the two days of the festival many First Nations artists had their work on display and held workshops to show festivalgoers how they do what they do. Among the work being demonstrated was birch bark canoes, silversmithing, moccasin making, dreamcatchers, loom beading, clothing and quillwork using porcupine quills.
"We have all disciplines," said Kewaquom. "A lot of the work that they do has been handed down in the families."
Kewaquom said the First Nations artists fit in well with a festival established around such a well-known and talented artist in Tom Thomson.
"We have so many wonderful, beautiful artists in the community and because it is an arts festival it is natural for us to be a part of it," said Kewaquom.
A foundation of the First Nations culture is nature and a lot of the work being done by the artists reflected that, Kewaquom said.
"There are flowers, trees, these kinds of things that you will see in the artwork, or they are using natural items," said Kewaquom.
The idea of partnering with the TOM came about when gallery marketing and development manager Leanne Wright approached the Saugeen First Nation, Kewaquom said. Also part of the Canadian Spirit Festival were portraits of Saugeen First Nation elders and youths that were submitted to a worldwide project called the Inside Out project. The portraits project, locally named Ahzhogun, which means "bridge," were hung around the festival site at Kelso as well as other areas of Owen Sound and Saugeen First Nation.
Kewaquom said she would also like to work with the TOM on bringing workshops for young aspiring artists at Saugeen First Nation.
"I look at it as a door opener for our people, although a lot of them already have their names out there for the work they do," Kewaquom said of the festival.
Two young artists from Saugeen First Nation taking part in the weekend festival were Taylor Cameron, 17, and Emily Kewageshig, 16. For both the artists it was the first time they had their work on display in public, outside of their school.
"I am thankful people get to see our work on display," said Cameron.
"I am happy to be able to show my art because a lot of people are noticed for the art that they do," added Kewageshig.
Festival co-ordinator Matt Standen said the partnership with Saugeen First Nation has enhanced the program they offered at the festival this year.
"It has brought attention to the various arts and crafts our First Nations people do," said Standen. "Tom was a pioneer in his own sorts and I think our First Nations community are just that, though they go back much further than Tom's legacy does."
Standen said the First Nations community is a bit underappreciated when it comes to their skills in arts and crafts.
"It is great to see the community out supporting that and getting involved really in the participatory workshops they have here," Standen said.