An exhibit called Breathe showcasing pandemic experiences through traditional art is now opened at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alta.
Breathe is a collection of masks created by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists from all over Canada using traditional materials.
“When we first started this, I don’t think we realized just how popular it would become, how explosive it would become,” said Metis artist Nathalie Bertin.
Bertin and Lisa Shepherd created Breathe as a Facebook group when the world was first hit with COVID-19 to connect artists during a time of isolation.
“There’s a lot of healing that’s going on in the creation of this artwork and we’re just continuing to do what we do to heal each other in the best way that we know how in this modern way,” Shepherd said. “Dealing with a 21st century pandemic.”
From sealskin, to birchbark biting, to moose hair tufting, the Breathe exhibit displays traditional work that’s been around for generations. But this is the first time the techniques have been used for these types of masks.
“Masks aren’t part of our culture historically, said Shepherd. “We beaded everything. We beaded leggings, moccasins, jackets, vests, hats. This is brand new. We’ve never had the occasion to bead a mask. But this is the time that we’re living in now and we’re still here.
“The work that we’re doing is still vital.”
The Breathe exhibit will be at the Whyte Museum until January 2021.