‘Timeless’ 1960s Elsipogtog craft work featured in new book and documentary

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The work of a 1960s Mi’kmaw crafts guild is being acknowledged in a new book and documentary launching Saturday in Fredericton. 

Artists from Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick made prints, ceramics, and textiles in addition to hasty notes and different novelty gadgets. 

“The work is gorgeous and to me, it is timeless,” mentioned Mona Francis, who helped translate the book Wabanaki Modern into Mi’kmaw. 

Francis is from Elsipogtog, 57 kilometres north of Moncton, and hopes the tasks encourage one other craft guild to kind in the group. 

Mona Francis with a photograph of Mi’kmaw artist Michael William Francis, whose work is featured in Wabanaki Modern. (Submitted by Mona Francis )

The Micmac Indian Craftsmen (MIC) guild shaped in 1962 after Chief Anthony Francis wrote to the provincial handicrafts guild saying the group had numerous expertise and one thing ought to come of it. The group obtained grants and the MIC shaped.

The MIC struggled to take care of funding so workers was all the time in flux, however 10 artists have been distinguished fixtures for the workshop till it folded in 1966. They included Michael William Francis, Jane Alice Dedam, Edward Alexander Francis and John Stephen Dedam. 

Michael William Francis was a Mi’kmaw artist from Elsipogtog and followers say his work was forward of his time. (submitted by Emma Hassencahl-Perley )

Vienna Francis, Stephen Dedam’s daughter, remembers rising up with the smells of turpentine and linseed oil in her home. 

“He did not solely work it, he lived it, so we needed to reside it as properly,” mentioned Francis.

She mentioned her father was humorous, a storyteller and artistic. Francis mentioned her father even constructed his personal workplace desk with copper rings. 

Her father died in March however Francis mentioned he would have been proud that his work is being featured in an artwork exhibition, book and movie.

The book and documentary, each titled Wabanaki Modern, launch this Saturday at Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the place an exhibition of the group’s artwork runs till February.

John Leroux, supervisor of exhibitions, and Emma Hassencahl-Perley, adjunct curator of Indigenous artwork, started researching the work of the MIC about three years in the past. Hassencahl-Perley co-authored the book with Leroux, and it  is on the market in English, French and Mi’kmaw.

Hassencahl-Perley, who’s Wolastoqey from Neqotkuk, Tobique First Nation, mentioned the work is gorgeous and influential and she’s grateful the group of Elsipogtog shared their tales.

“The love and effort and success that emanated from the group continues to be current at this time,” mentioned Hassencahl-Perley.

Emma Hassencahl-Perley co-authored the book Wabanaki Modern with John Leroux. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

She was shocked to study that many ladies in the group helped the guild by stitching burlap sacks to deal with the inflow of demand for the MIC’s hasty notes. She mentioned this story speaks to intergenerational success of Elsipogtog. 

Sandy Hunter, who produced the 22-minute documentary, hopes the movie shines a lightweight on simply how proficient the MIC was. 

“When I noticed the work, I used to be like ‘Wow!’ and I had no concept it existed,” mentioned Hunter.

He mentioned the artwork could also be 60 years outdated however it seems to be like trendy graphic design. The works mix modern visuals with conventional Mi’kmaw tales like Glooscap and the whale.

“I feel it can encourage others to contribute to creating in the province,” mentioned Hunter. 

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