Transcript: Applying Bead Art to Masks | Jan 08, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and burgundy tie.

A caption on screen reads "Applying bead art to masks. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

A wall screen behind him reads "Ontario Hubs."

Jeyan says PUTTING ON A MASK TO GO OUT IN THE WORLD IS STANDARD PRACTICE NOW. BUT IT'S UNLIKELY YOU'VE SEEN ANY QUITE LIKE THOSE INSPIRED BY A SIMPLE QUESTION POSED BY A METIS ARTIST FROM NEWMARKET, WHICH BECAME A CALL TO BEADWORK ARTISTS AROUND THE WORLD. JOINING US NOW TO EXPLAIN, FROM OTTAWA IS SHELBY LISK, OUR ONTARIO HUBS JOURNALIST COVERING INDIGENOUS ISSUES. WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

Shelby is in her thirties, with long auburn hair in a single braid. She's wearing glasses and a gray sweater.

She says THANKS, JEYAN.

Jeyan says SHELBY, LET'S GET RIGHT INTO IT. WHAT WAS THE QUESTION THAT PROMPTED THE BEADWORK PROJECT.

The caption changes to "Calling all artists."

Shelby says THEY BEGINNING OF COVID IN THE SPRING, WE SAW ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE MAKING ALL KINDS OF HOMEMADE MASKS, AND NATHALIE LAMBERT TOOK TO SOCIAL MEDIA WITH THE QUESTION: WHY HAVEN'T I SEEN ANY BEADED MASKS? AS A METIS ARTIST, SHE TALKED TO ME ABOUT HOW IN THEIR CULTURE THEY BEAD EVERYTHING. AND SHE WASN'T SEEING THAT FROM THE METIS ARTISTS AT THE TIME. THIS CONNECTED HER WITH ANOTHER METIS ARTIST, LISA SHEPHERD, AND THEY HAVE BEADED MASKS IN THE TRADITIONAL STYLE OF THEIR NATION OR COMMUNITY.

Jeyan says THIS SOUNDS LIKE AN OBVIOUS QUESTION. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MASKS. BUT WHY WAS THE PROJECT CALLED "BREATHE"?

The caption changes to "Shelby Lisk, @shelbyliskphoto."

Shelby says I ASKED HER THAT QUESTION AND I THOUGHT IT WAS KIND OF A SILLY QUESTION BUT, YEAH, FOR THE OBVIOUS REASONS, YOU KNOW, WE NEED TO BREATHE... WE HAVE TO WEAR THESE MASKS NOW, BUT ALSO BECAUSE SHE DESCRIBED THE SITUATION THAT WE'RE IN RIGHT NOW AS, YOU KNOW, WE ALL KIND OF DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. WE'RE ALL HOLDING OUR BREATH. AND THIS IS GIVING ARTISTS A SPACE TO PROCESS EVERYTHING THAT'S GOING ON AND KIND OF, LIKE, RELAX, LET GO, AND BREATHE.

Jeyan says NOW, LIKE YOU HAD MENTIONED THIS WAS A CALLOUT THAT STARTED HERE IN CANADA BUT HAS SINCE GONE INTERNATIONAL. TELL US ABOUT THAT.

The caption changes to "Shelby Lisk. Journalist Covering Indigenous Issues."

Shelby says YEAH. SO THEY STARTED THE CALLOUT AS A FACEBOOK PAGE WHICH WENT LIVE IN APRIL AND THEY ASKED ARTISTS TO UPLOAD PICTURES OF THEIR MASKS, AND WITHIN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS, NATHALIE SAID THEY HAD OVER 1,000 MEMBERS, WHICH THEY WERE NOT EXPECTING, FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND THEN WITHIN A FEW WEEKS OF THAT, THEY STARTED SEEING MASKS COMING IN, AND NOW THEIR PAGE HAS OVER 2,000 FOLLOWERS. THEY'VE HAD 300 DIFFERENT PEOPLE SUBMIT MASKS. AND THEY'VE BEEN COMING IN FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. SO CANADA AND THE U.S., BUT ALSO THEY'VE HAD SUBMISSIONS FROM NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA, AND PORTUGAL, JUST TO NAME A FEW.

Jeyan says NOW, I HAD A CHANCE TO GO ON THE FACEBOOK PAGE AND I SCROLLED THROUGH THERE. BUT IS THERE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE TO SEE THESE MASKS IN REAL LIFE AT ALL?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Shelby says YES. SO THEY DID DO TWO SPECIAL CALLOUTS THAT WERE SPECIFICALLY FOR AN ART EXHIBITION. RIGHT NOW THEY HAVE AN EXHIBITION ON VIEW IN ALBERTA, THE WHITE MUSEUM IN BANFF, AND IT'S GOING TO BE A TRAVELLING EXHIBITION. IT'S GOING TO TRAVEL ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND IT WILL BE COMING TO ONTARIO IN 2021, SO YOU CAN WATCH OUT FOR THE INFORMATION ABOUT THAT.

Jeyan says NOW, WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO PHOTOGRAPH THESE MASKS ON OUR WEBSITE, WE HAVE 12 MASKS ON OUR WEBSITE OF 46. BUT WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO PHOTOGRAPH THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE?

As Shelby speaks, a short video taken browsing on the TVO websites shows captioned pictures of ornate masks and people wearing them, as text on screen reads "Tvo.org/OntarioHubs."

Shelby says YEAH. I THOUGHT THAT WHEN THESE ARTISTS FIRST STARTED IT AND I THOUGHT IT WAS SUCH A COOL PROJECT, AND I SAW ALL KINDS OF MEDIA COVERING IT. SO I WASN'T REALLY SURE HOW I WANTED TO COVER IT, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY, IN A TVO HUBS WAY. SO WHEN I SAW THAT MY COMMUNITY IN TYENDINAGA WAS DOING THEIR OWN CHALLENGE INSPIRED BY THIS, I THOUGHT THAT WAS PERFECT. YOU KNOW, THIS LITTLE CHALLENGE AS A PART OF THIS BIG INTERNATIONAL STORY. AND SO I CONTACTED THEM AND THEY WERE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT, AND IT WAS ALSO SOMETHING THAT WAS VERY MANAGEABLE FOR ME DURING COVID TO BE ABLE TO GET TO MY COMMUNITY, YOU KNOW, WITH ALL THE RESTRICTIONS AND, YOU KNOW, STAY WITH MY FAMILY WHILE I WAS IN THE AREA. SO THERE WAS ALSO SOME PRACTICAL RESTRICTIONS AROUND WHAT I COULD DO. AND DOING IT MY COMMUNITY REALLY MADE IT A LOT EASIER.

Jeyan says ALL RIGHT. SO LET'S LOOK AT SOME. THE FIRST ONE THAT WE HAVE LOOKS SORT OF LIKE A WEDDING MASK. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS ONE?

A double picture shows a pearlescent white mask with two white feathered pendants, and a woman with straight brown hair wearing it.

Shelby says THIS IS CAROL-ANNE AND SHE COMES FROM A FAMILY OF BEADERS AND LEATHER WORKERS AND SEWERS IN OUR COMMUNITY. SHE HAS BEEN BEADING SINCE SHE WAS A LITTLE GIRL WITH HER MOTHER AND HER GRANDMOTHER. SHE TELLS ME SHE HAS BEEN BEADING FOR OVER 50 YEARS NOW. SO THIS MASK WAS INSPIRED BY... SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO GET MARRIED IN THE FALL OF 2020, BUT AS THE PROVINCIAL GUIDELINES STARTED COMING OUT AND THEY REALIZED WITH THE RESTRICTIONS THAT THEIR WEDDING WAS NOT GOING TO BE POSSIBLE, SO THEY HAD TO POSTPONE IT. AND WHEN THIS CHALLENGE CAME ABOUT, SHE KNEW SHE WANTED TO MAKE A WEDDING MASK TO COMMEMORATE THAT. SHE SAYS SHE HAS MADE WEDDING DRESSES, WEDDING MOCCASINS AND JEWELLERY BUT NEVER MADE A WEDDING MASK. THERE'S A TON OF INTRICATE DETAILS IN THE MASK, DOWN ALL THE WAY... YOU KNOW, THERE'S THE TASSELS THAT ARE HANGING DOWN ON THE SIDE AND SHE TALKED TO ME ABOUT THOSE SORT OF LOOKING REMINISCENT OF WHAT A BRIDE MIGHT WEAR FOR EARRINGS ON HER WEDDING DAY.

Jeyan says HER WEDDING HAS BEEN POSTPONED. DOES SHE PLAN TO WEAR THIS MASK ON HER WEDDING DAY?

Shelby says I ASKED HER THAT QUESTION AS WELL AND SHE SAYS, SHE HOPES NOT, BECAUSE COVID SHOULD BE OVER HOPEFULLY BY THE TIME THEY'RE GETTING MARRIED.

Jeyan says FAIR ENOUGH. LET'S BRING UP THE SECOND MASK. THIS IS A LITTLE SIMPLER THAN THE FIRST ONE. I UNDERSTAND THIS IS A TRIBUTE TO SOMEONE.

Another double picture shows an off-white mask with colourful flowers embroidered on it, and a woman with short dark hair wearing it.

Shelby says YES. SO THE ARTIST, TAMMY MARACLE-KOCH, CREATED THIS MASK AS A TRIBUTE TO HER FATHER WHO PASSED AWAY IN APRIL. BECAUSE OF THE COVID RESTRICTIONS THAT WERE GOING ON, HER AND HER FAMILY WEREN'T ABLE TO VISIT HER FATHER TO SAY GOOD-BYE, TO SEE HIM IN HIS LAST MOMENTS OR TO HAVE A FUNERAL OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT TO REALLY START THAT GRIEVING PROCESS. AND SO SHE CREATED THIS MASK AS A WAY TO REMEMBER HIM BUT ALSO AS A WAY TO, YOU KNOW, WORK THROUGH SOME OF THAT GRIEF, AND HER FATHER WAS A MUSICIAN, SO YOU CAN SEE TINY LITTLE MUSIC NOTE IN THERE AMONGST THE FLOWERS, AND SHE ALSO SAID THAT HE ALWAYS LOVED THE FLORAL BEADWORK, SO SHE MADE THAT SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM.

Jeyan says ALL RIGHT. SO THE THIRD ONE ACTUALLY HAS THE IMAGE OF A HUMMINGBIRD. IS THERE A STORY THERE?

Another double picture shows a black mask with embroidery depicting a green vine, flowers, and a hummingbird. A woman with long auburn hair wears it.

Shelby says YES. SO CALLIE, SHE BEADED THE HUMMINGBIRD ON HERS ALSO IN MEMORY OF HER LATE MOTHER, THE HUMMINGBIRD WAS HER FAVOURITE BIRD, AND ALSO MAKING THE MASK IN MEMORY OF HER GRANDMOTHER, WHO WAS A BEADER. AND THIS MASK IS DONE ENTIRELY IN A RAISED BEADWORK STYLE, WHICH IS SIGNATURE TO HAUDENOSAUNEE BEADWORK. IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT I'VE SEEN ANY OTHER NATION DO. SO IF YOU SEE ANY CONTEMPORARY OR ANTIQUE PIECES OF BEADWORK THAT HAVE THIS RAISED STYLE, IT'S PROBABLY HAUDENOSAUNEE OR IROQUOIS BEADWORK.

Jeyan says THIS FOURTH ONE I WILL ADMIT IS PROBABLY MY FAVOURITE ONE. IT IS A CONSTELLATION MASK. WHAT IS ITS SIGNIFICANCE?

Another double picture shows a dark, chalkboard-tone mask with an image of a constellation of three stick figures chasing a polar bear. A young woman with chin-length dark hair wears it.

Shelby says THE MASK HERE, IT SHOWS THE STORY OR THE LEGEND OF THE BIG DIPPER CONSTELLATION. SO THERE ARE MANY VERSIONS OF THIS STORY, AND THE ONE THAT I KNOW IN THIS SORT OF SIMPLIFIED VERSION IS THAT THE STARS THAT KIND OF TRAIL BEHIND OUR... SYMBOLIZE THESE HUNTERS AND THE LITTLE CLUSTER OF STARS SYMBOLIZE THE BEAR. THE STORY IS THESE THREE HUNTERS ARE CHASING THE BEAR. AND THROUGHOUT THE SEASONS, THE CONSTELLATION CHANGES IN THE SKY. SO IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER, THE CONSTELLATION LOOKS LIKE HOW WE SEE IT HERE, WITH THE HUNTERS CHASING THE BEAR. AND THEN IN THE FALL, IT TIPS. SO THE BEAR WOULD BE UNDERNEATH, AND IN OUR LEGEND, WE SAY THAT THAT IS WHEN THE HUNTERS CATCH UP WITH THE BEAR, THEY'RE ABLE TO HUNT HIM, AND IT IS THE BEAR'S BLOOD COMING DOWN FROM THE SKY THAT ACTUALLY CHANGES ALL THE LEAVES' COLOUR IN THE FALL. AND THEN IN THE WINTER, YOU KNOW, IT KEEPS ROTATING AND THE BEAR IS SORT OF UPSIDE DOWN, SLEEPING, UNTIL IT COMES TO SPRING AGAIN WHEN THE HUNTERS START THEIR CHASE.

The caption changes to "Inspired to create."

Jeyan says NOW, IF THAT'S NOT AN AMAZING STORY IN ITSELF, THAT'S REMARKABLE. BUT I UNDERSTAND THERE'S ALSO A REALLY COOL FEATURE WITH THIS MASK AS WELL.

Shelby says YES. THE BEADS ACTUALLY ALL GLOW IN THE DARK, WHICH WAS REALLY COOL TO SEE BUT VERY HARD TO PHOTOGRAPH.

Jeyan says THAT'S AWESOME. NOW, THE LAST MASK THAT WE'RE GOING TO SHOW IS QUITE SPECIAL, IT ALSO INCLUDES YOU IN THERE IN THAT PHOTO. TELL US ABOUT THIS TURTLE MASK.

Another double picture shows a colourful mask in tones of red, green orange and blue, with a stone turtle sewn into it. A woman with short auburn hair wears the mask as she hugs Shelby, who wears a purple and white mask.

Shelby says YEAH, SO THIS IS MY MAMA. SHE IS A VERY TALENTED SEWER, QUILTER, YOU KNOW, BASICALLY EVERYTHING SHE CAN DO WITH HER HANDS. ABOUT YOU SHE NEVER DID BEADWORK GROWING UP. SO THAT'S SOMETHING THAT SHE HAS BEEN DOING TO RECONNECT TO OUR CULTURE AND TO OUR COMMUNITY, AND SO THE MASK THAT SHE IS WEARING HAS THE TURTLE ON IT, AND SHE BEADED THAT BECAUSE OUR FAMILY IS TURTLE CLAN, AND THEN SHE ALSO BEADED THE MASK THAT I'M WEARING THERE IN THE PHOTO WITH HER. SO THAT'S A SYMBOL THAT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT RECOGNIZE, IT'S THE HIAWATHA BELT, WHICH SYMBOLIZES THE FIVE NATIONS COMING TOGETHER TO FORM THE IROQUOIS CONFEDERACY. THAT'S THE SYMBOLISM ON THERE. IT WAS NICE TO BE ABLE TO GO BACK HOME AND I DIDN'T KNOW MY MOM WAS GOING TO BE PART OF THIS CHALLENGE WHEN I PROPOSED THIS STORY. IT WAS NICE TO HAVE HER AS A SUBJECT AND BE ABLE TO BE WITH MY FAMILY FOR THIS STORY.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says SHELBY, ANOTHER GREAT STORY. I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH. YOU CAN SEE THE REST OF THE PHOTO GALLERY ON OUR WEBSITE AT TVO.org. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Shelby says THANKS, JEYAN.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Applying Bead Art to Masks