My vision was to create a cultural exchange in Africa. That vision came to life this past year. I was given the space to teach what I have learned in the past few years about my peoples traditions. I also learned about their ancient traditions. These are the very things that have helped to form my identity, a feeling of connection, and healing. My connection to weaving helps me to decolonize my spirit and mind every time I weave. The weaving workshops that I facilitate and the work that I do with cedar is grounded in decolonization. The kids learned about the cedar tree, our sacred life giver and our weaving practices. Weaving is just as important in Northwest Coast cultures as it is in African Cultures.
We wove together our cultures; utilizing cedar bark, banana bark and palm leaves. None of the kids had ever woven before, or knew the uses of their traditional weaving materials, but we made it work. I applied the same practices for harvesting bark for harvesting banana and palm leaves. Everything was done to honor and respect the plants for all they are providing us. The kids needed very little instruction, which did not surpries me. Weaving is in thier blood. The joy on their faces and the pride they displayed filled my heart with joy.
The kids also received one of my scarves. It was their first time seeing Northwest Coast design. They were very creative in finding many ways of wearing the scarves. A bit of Haida Gwaii in Rwanda looks good
I also taught the kids Haida and Kwakwakw’wakw songs and dances, and they have been sharing their tradtional dances. African and Northwest Coast cultures share a similiarity in the importance that our songs and dances hold. I love that the language here is still in tact. Most people do not speak english, and I love that!!! We are getting by just fine by pantomiming. We have a translator at the homeless shelter we are working at, so that makes things a bit easier to teach.
The cedar bark that the kids are learning with, has come all the way from Dzawadi (Knights Inlet). I want to thank my friend Darryl Beans for harvesting this bark last spring for this trip. The cedar, our songs and dances are bringing joy to kids in need half way around the world. This trip is also helping me to see how important it is for me to work with kids from my own territory when I get back home.
I am incredibly grateful to my sister Meghann O’Brien for bringing weaving back into our family. And to my dad , Brian O’Brien for giving me a job commercial fishing this past summer. That job has allowed me to make this vision happen