Quilt of Belonging showcased at Woodland Cultural Centre

People gather to observe a rainbow-coloured installation spanning wall-to-wall.

 

KATELYN THOMSON / SPUTNIK CONTRIBUTOR

 

263 nations of the world come together at Woodland Cultural Centre with the opening of the Quilt of Belonging exhibit on Feb. 29.

The Quilt of Belonging is an artistic textile piece started by artist Esther Bryan, created in collaboration with volunteers from across Canada and the globe. 

The quilt itself is made up of hexagon-shaped pieces that represent the carbon molecule, where life stems from. Within these hexagons are smaller diamond-shaped pieces, each of which was created by a different person from every different culture and nation of the world. The hexagon pieces are separated by red cording throughout. 

Bryan says that this is representative of the relationship we all have. 

“The cording frames them as individuals and makes them shine in a unique way, it also connects them to the neighbour … You have to find a way to be who are meant to be and at the same time understand that every action impacts our neighbour,” Bryan says.

The 120 foot quilt features a large variety of fabrics from cotton, pieces of clothing, leather, banana leaves and even butterfly wings.

This massive textile work took six years to complete. Bryan determined that they would not show the quilt until every single nation of the world had a block. She wanted to provide a place for every single person.

The Quilt of Belonging grew into something that Bryan says she could never have imagined. Over the years, Bryan and her volunteers have travelled the equivalent of five times around the equator, and the Quilt of Belonging has had over three million visitors since.

Bryan was inspired to create the quilt by her own journey of discovery. 

“I realized we are marked by our experiences and they are part of who we are, part of it is genetic, but part of it is the life that we lived,” says Bryan.

Bryan found out in the late 1990s that her family had roots in Scandinavia. After visiting her distant family there, she felt an instant connection and it inspired Bryan to create the Quilt of Belonging.

After presenting her past exhibit showcasing her family’s history, she heard numerous stories from those who attended. The stories that she heard from these people struck a chord in her realizing that everybody should have a chance to have their family stories to be listened to and remembered. 

“I just began to feel, when I saw that reaction, that there was a real need for people to do two things; to feel that they had value and that we were interested in hearing about them,” Bryan says.

Bryan hopes that the quilt would showcase and celebrate the differences of each individual and their culture. 

Laurie Daniel, the attendee of the event, felt this sense of connection and celebration. 

“You don’t have to know the language, you could all just have a needle and thread and put something like this together, it’s just beautiful to feel so connected,” Daniel says.

Alongside the Quilt of Belonging is a second exhibit called The Fabric of Community. This exhibit features quilts made by creators from the local Brantford community. 

Patricia Deadman, the curator at Woodland Cultural Centre, says that The Fabric of Community holds the same essence of the Quilt of Belonging. 

“I think everybody has their own story to tell … It’s about inclusiveness, and it’s a representation of the diversity that Canada is made of,” says Deadman. “For me, that’s how I identify, to be able to look at all of the different pieces, which are all so unique and meticulous that it just blows me away.”

The Quilt of Belonging exhibit will be open at Woodland Cultural Centre until May 9.

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