Today I wanted to share something I made as part of a project called Walking with Our Sisters.
The project's Facebook page here has pictures of many of the other vamps that have been sent in as part of this project and they are amazing. Beautiful, beautiful beading.
I think the best explanation of the project comes from their website :
"Walking With Our Sisters is a commemorative art installation to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous Women of Canada and the United States; to acknowledge the grief and torment families of these women continue to suffer; and, to raise awareness of this issue and create opportunity for broad community-based dialogue on the issue.
Walking With Our Sisters is an entirely crowd-sourced project. From the artwork, to the fundraising, even to the way the exhibit tour is being booked, it is all being fueled by hundreds and thousands of people who have chosen to become involved. Collectively we are creating one unified voice to honour these women, their families and call for attention to be paid to this issue. There is power in numbers, and there is power in art.
In June of 2012, a general call was issued on issued on Facebook for people to create moccasin tops. The call was answered by women, men and children of all ages and races. By July 25, 2013, over 1,600 vamps had been received, almost tripling the initial initial goal of 600. Offering proof that the world is indeed filled with caring souls.
Each pair of moccasin tops are intentionally not sewn into moccasins to represent the unfinished lives of the women and girls.
This project is about these women, paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, aunties, grandmothers, friends and wives. They have been cared for, they have been loved, and they are missing.
The art installation will exhibit to over 25 locations throughout North America and is now booked until 2019. Please see the Exhibit Tour section for the full listing locations."
The volume of the response to this project is very moving, and looking at the photos of all of the vamps fills me with awe - my effort is very basic in comparison. However, I enjoyed learning how to do this beading. The puffin represents the province where I currently live, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the bison (yes, that is supposed to be a bison!) the province where I grew up, in Manitoba.
I grew up in Winnipeg, a city with a sizable First Nations population. I remember watching some television mini-series when I was younger which dramatized the situation of abuse in Native residential schools, and one about the murder case of Helen Betty Osborne - which affected me greatly. Just this month, there has been newly discovered information that First Nations children in Manitoba in the 1940s were purposely deprived of food as part of experiments in malnutrition.
I recently came across this quotation attributed to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the (excellent) sewing book Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin:
"Much of the social history of early America has been lost to us precisely because women were expected to use needles rather than pens. Yet if textiles are in one sense an emblem of women's oppression, they have also been an almost universal medium of female expression. If historians are to understand the lives of women in times past, they must not only cherish the Anne Bradstreets and Martha Ballards who mastered the mysterious ways of quill pen, they must also decipher work composed in yarn and thread."
I hope that this exhibit of the wok of 1600 women will speak to history about the situation of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and may raise awareness in the present.