Old techniques, modern products featured at show

  • Jan. 24, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Snowshoes, hide tents, moccasins, cradles and other traditional items became the inspiration for modern furniture, clothing and lighting designs made 23 aboriginal artists from three eastern Quebec communities. The show, Migratory Passages, is the culmination of a six year project where traditional knowledge holders shared techniques with younger artisans. Haida Gwaii Museum director Nathalie Macfarlane explained that the exhibition, on display until March 4, was prompted by an observation that older people with the knowledge of how to make things in the traditional way were dying or leaving the remote communities of Odanak, Mashteuiatsh and Uashat mak Mani-Utenam. “The project brought forward ideas on how to manifest traditional practices and technologies into new objects,” she said. The participants from the three communities also spent time with industrial designers at a Quebec university, to find ways to transform these technologies into new products that could work in the marketplace. The results included a coffee table inspired by snow shoe making technology, a jewelled light fixture based on a drum design, a footstool made of beaded animal hide and a backpack inspired by the sewing techniques used to make Innu tents. Another byproduct was that participants went on a voyage of self discovery and came to a new understanding of their roots, said Ms Macfarlane. Some of the work in the show reflects these inner journeys, she said. Jean St. Onge, one of the artists, who along with two Chicoutimi-based curators came to help set up the show, produced a theatrical work that takes the audience on a journey with Tshakapesh, an Innu supernational being, as portrayed by an 8-foot marionette. A video of the piece is part of the show.