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Weaving together generations

Lil’wat Gathering of Artists showcase celebrates both local and international talent



For years, Elizabeth Andrew of the Lil’wat Nation walked by the baskets in her grandmother’s house and never gave any thought to picking up the weaving tradition.

It wasn’t until the Lilwat7ul Culture Centre hosted a basket-weaving workshop two years ago that the Mount Currie resident decided to begin weaving, a long-standing family tradition.

“I’d watch the elders on the reserve do it,” Andrew said. “It’s really interesting: all the designs and shapes you can make out of it.”

The cedar basket weaver just completed an oval basket for Valentine’s Day. Three colours – a red cherry bark, aged black bark and yellow canary grass – thread in and out to create diamonds and hearts. Her heart basket along with other baskets, headbands and crowns will be showcased at the Gathering of the Artists Lil’wat traditional art celebration presented by the Lil’wat7ul Culture Centre on Saturday, Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pemberton Community Centre as part of the Pemberton WinterFest celebrations.

Andrew appreciates the quiet time basket weaving affords. She harvests cedar root from neighouring forests, splits and grooms the cedar strips and ages the cedar in a slew for a year until it turns black. She then draws her basket designs on graph paper and sets to work. The mother of two and foster parent relaxes under the weave of calm her baskets and crowns create. Most of her crowns are worn by aboriginals at pow wows as part of their regalia; however, her hair accessories are worn day to day.

She recently shared her joy of cedar root basket weaving with students at Signal Hill elementary school in Pemberton for two weeks and she will teach on Feb. 21 at the Lillooet Friendship Centre in Lillooet.

Now it is Andrew’s grandmother Rose Selina Dan who looks on as her granddaughter uses the tools and materials she has passed on to her.

Other Lil’wat traditional artworks will be shared at the showcase including carvings, beading, paintings, stone work, drums, moccasins, jewelry, silver and gold carvings, regalia and canoes.

Entertainment will be hosted throughout the day, including the dance and music of the Iswalh (Loon) Dance Group.

“We have 26 artists who will be showing their work,” said organizer Lois Joseph who also performs with the Iswalh troupe.

New this year, guest Inuit artists Goota Ashoona and family will also join the showcase.

Goota Ashoona is the granddaughter of famed graphic artist Pitseolak Ashoona and daughter of world-renowned carver, Kiawak Ashoona, one of the founding pioneers of what was historically called Eskimo Art in the 1950s.

Goota is also a celebrated, internationally recognized artist in her own right. She was awarded two Orders of Canada, two Aboriginal Achievement Awards and an arts humanity award by the Canada Arts Council. She has been featured in three National Film Board movies and a reality television show on the Life Channel. The artist, who comes from a family of more than 60 artists over the last quarter of a century, is also a throat singer who has performed with the CBC Symphony Orchestra.

Joseph was happy to welcome the Ashoona family to the Lil’wat Gathering of the Artists art fair, providing onlookers with both authentic local and international aboriginal art.

Admission is free.