Kwa’Wet Collective was co-founded by Shonna Sawyer with sisters Chelan and Megan Howard-Gibbon. (Kwa’Wet Collective image)

Kwa’Wet Collective was co-founded by Shonna Sawyer with sisters Chelan and Megan Howard-Gibbon. (Kwa’Wet Collective image)

Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw and Wet’suwet’en women launch artists collective

Online collective supporting Indigenous artists

Three women from two distinct B.C. First Nations have joined forces to give Indigenous artists an online space of their own.

Kwa’Wet Collective was recently established by Wet’suwet’en members Chelan and Megan Howard-Gibbon and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw member Shonna Sawyer, who participated in the Indigenous entrepreneurial training known as the 3C Challenge.

“It’s very powerful,” Chelan said.

“In our culture, the matriarchs are the most important part of our families. My sister and I don’t have children, so we wanted to give back this way.”

For many artists, including those within the Howard-Gibbon family, COVID-19 abruptly cut off most off-line options to sell their work.

Read More: Vancouver Island Indigenous artist takes unique approach to COVID-19 masks

While some have turned to Facebook or Instagram, the trio saw an opportunity to develop a single online space for Indigenous artists to showcase their work to viewers across the globe and connect.

All three had signed up for the 3C Challenge which provides the opportunity for Indigenous people between the ages of 15 to 45 to develop their business skills and explore their entrepreneurial spirit.

After what Chelan described as a virtual crash course in entrepreneurship, participants were split into groups to bring their business idea to market.

It was then the sisters who reside in Prince George were connected with stay-at-home mom Shonna of Alert Bay, and decided to combine the first three letters of their nations for their online collective—Kwa’Wet.

Their logo —a two-headed sea serpent drawn by Shonna’s son—also symbolizes the joining together of the two nations.

“We want to be continually expanding our artist base, and we just really want to take these artists and help them rise up to all that they can be,” Chelan said.

Read More: Artists discuss The River Talks project on Zoom


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