I attended The Fabric of Our Land – Salish Weaving exhibit at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology on April 14, 2018. I am so glad we were able to coordinate and get there before it closed as I had my eye on this show since it opened. The installation of the exhibit was so well done – from individual exhibits – both historical items and more contemporary production to free-standing looms for the public to experience the process and feel some of the materials for themselves, and many informative narratives and background storyboards.
There were many things to learn at this exhibit such as the use of various wild duck skins (alternating for the weft or warp which could keep the fine down layer close to the skin) and alternating with other wool (e.g. woolly dog or goat), to create unique down/wool combinations that provide both warmth and comforting texture for robes, blankets and carpets. Indigenous conservation and sustainability practices for collecting wool from mountain goats include setting up branches along their usual routes to capture wool as they pass by. Below is an example of one exhibit about a mallard and goat robe.
Salish weavers would sometimes unravel the colonists commercial wool products for their own work – adding in duck feathers, down skins, or woolly dog to improve the properties and quality.
The public engagement with the looms was fabulous. By following the story boards visitors could practice the methods and better appreciate and understand the processes of the Salish Weavers, who are all women. It is inspirational to see young Salish women featured practicing their art as many of the historical pictures are limited and therefore feature the same images repeatedly.
These young people, predominantly women, are bringing a new awareness to contemporary audiences about how they are creating continuity with their traditions and culture. In the second picture below of the Salish Weaver poem – it should be added that these are women weavers – but perhaps this is a given in the Salish community, I will have to investigate for a future blog post!
Another wonderful aspect of the storyboards is that they collected the personal stories of the weavers: how they learned weaving, the importance of the transmission of knowledge from their elders, and the satisfaction they feel in the work of weaving.
Here are more images from the exhibition. I hope you enjoy these – it was so much better in person but hopefully you will gain some appreciation for the Coast Salish weavers history and continuing struggle to assert their identity and culture.
Lastly, I will leave you with some other images from our visit to the MOA like the Totem Hall, some fabulous textile collections including Greenlandic clothing, and ceramics collection:
The Bill Reid Rotunda. Spectacular monumental sculpture.
The ceramics gallery with contemporary figurative sculpture at the entrance.
The last parting shots of Vancouver if you have not been here before do not capture it at all. I am sure you feel that about your own town or city. This was only one night we spent here right downtown and it was great! Pan Pacific – book it online.
I welcome comments – I know there is lots more that can be said about this exhibit and the artists! please contribute!.