Exhibit presents beadwork through the generations

Matt
Matt Gardner
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An exhibit at the Mann Art Gallery this month offers a glimpse at how the art of beading has evolved over the years.

Beading Between Generations features profiles and artwork on eight different artists across Saskatchewan, ranging in age from 24 to 97 years old, who took part in a recent study by University of Regina professor Cindy Hanson.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the study -- entitled Intergenerational Learning in Indigenous Textile Communities of Practice -- builds on Hanson’s past work in indigenous communities in Canada and Chile.

“I’m very interested, as a community-based researcher, in finding ways of popularizing research, finding ways where I work with people that I ask them … “What would you like to do with the knowledge that we have created?” And it was the idea of the group to have a beading exhibition,” Hanson said.

“So this is not my idea, but I have an obligation as a researcher doing community-based research to give that knowledge back to the community.”

Hanson and most of the beaders will appear in the gallery’s Project Space on Friday at 7 p.m. for a reception hosted by the U of R Faculty of Education. Admission is free, while tea, bannock and other refreshments will be available.

The exhibit itself opened at the Mann Art Gallery on Tuesday and will remain in place until Saturday, June 28.

As curator, Hanson was well aware of the responsibility on her shoulders.

“It’s a huge obligation … because people are giving me things that represent three generations of beading in their family and I’m given the role of caring for that and showing that,” she noted.

Hanson’s study evolved out of her longtime interest in “indigenous ways of knowing” and lifelong learning in textiles.

When the elders talked about the beading, they always started by talking about the moose hunt or tanning the hides … When the younger people talked about the beading, they always started talking just about the beading. Cindy Hanson

Her research methods included focus groups, with the first including 14 people -- most of whom are represented at the current show.

One of the most notable differences she observed between beaders of different generations was the closer connection to the land in ages past.

“When the elders talked about the beading, they always started by talking about the moose hunt or tanning the hides … When the younger people talked about the beading, they always started talking just about the beading,” Hanson said.

The beading also reflects changing culture in terms of chosen subjects. Hanson pointed to one younger artist who beaded Gene Simmons from the band KISS.

Others have taken to beading sports logos, such as young beaders from Montreal Lake Cree Nation who have been taking orders for beaded belts of the Montreal Canadiens.

Underscoring the diversity of beading techniques, the artwork at the exhibit includes mukluks with different designs as well as three birch bark baskets created by the oldest beader who took part in the study.

Beaders whose work is on display include Larissa Dustyhorn, Cecillia Masuskapoe, Debbie Thomas, Bernice Hammersmith (Daigneault), her daughter Renee Hammersmith, Patsy Naytowhow, Mary Smith and Andrea McDonald.

“The work expresses appreciation for what can happen when the mind, the heart and the hands work together,” Hanson said.

Organizations: University of Regina, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Mann Art Gallery Montreal Canadiens

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canada, Chile Montreal Lake

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