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Indigenous weavers gift Muslim community rugs in symbolic ceremony with support of CCMS
In a historic and unprecedented ceremony at Vanier Park, Indigenous weavers presented the Vancouver Muslim community with a collection of handwoven rugs on June 27. A gift to the Muslim community, the rugs symbolize partnership and collaboration between the Indigenous and Muslim communities that the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies (CCMS) is proud to support alongside other initiatives that have strengthened relationships between the two communities.
“Never before has this kind of artistic and cultural collaboration between Muslims and Indigenous communities, and such a ceremony, taken place,” says Dr. Amal Ghazal, director of CCMS at Simon Fraser University.
The project, initiated by the Vancouver Biennale, involved extensive collaboration between Indigenous and Muslim artists. The six rugs were designed and woven by six renowned Indigenous artists from Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations over the last year. Chief Janice George and Musqueam weaver and artist Debra Sparrow then decided to present the rugs to the Muslim community.
The rugs were paired with a jacquard border designed by one of CCMS fellows, Doaa Jamal. It contains an Arabic poem by a local Muslim poet, Efemeral, woven alongside Indigenous proverbs.
Real events shaped the stories woven into the rugs. They began with the Pacific Northwest orca, Tahlequah, that made international news when she carried her dead calf for 17 days in an unprecedented display of mourning off the Pacific coast last August. At the same time, wildfires were raging across western Canada, and English Bay was contaminated by E. coli, forcing the popular Vancouver beach to be closed. These stories and the feelings they engendered found their way into the design of the rugs.
Each of the weavers participated in a series of workshops and conversations about Islamic and Indigenous heritage hosted by the Musqueam Centre and the Museum of Vancouver, according to Ammar Mahinwalla, Director of Public Projects at Vancouver Biennale.
The rugs are meant to serve as a reminder of the responsibility of stewardship and the power of community.
During the Vanier Park ceremony, a procession of Indigenous drummers accompanied the weavers with their rugs as they were handed over to members of the Muslim community in attendance.
The choice of venue is significant, as Vanier Park, known as Snauq to the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) people, was the site of a vibrant Indigenous community until they were removed from their land to make way for colonial expansion.