BC Culture Days ambassador, Jean Baptiste, will host a free medicine pouch making workshop at Omineca Arts Centre Sept. 29.
Baptiste is a storyteller and nonbinary, two-spirit member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in the Laksilyu clan, who will lead the in-person workshop where guests can create a beaded pouch as well as identifying medicines or sacred objects to fill the pouch.
This workshop is part of the 12th annual BC Culture Days where people can RE:IMAGINE, RE:CONNECT and RE:GENERATE during a month-long arts and culture series of events held throughout the province.
During the medicine pouch sewing workshop participants can make a leather or fabric pouch with basic beadwork.
Supplies will be available but guests can also choose to bring their own supplies to make their pouch completely unique.
“The intention of the workshop is to get everyone together for tactile learning around sewing and doing beadwork,” Baptiste said. “But the process of the workshop I imagine we’ll get to talk not just about sage and tobacco and what other things you can put in your medicine pouch but I really want to expand it passed that to what are your medicines? And for me when I think about things I would like to put in my medicine pouch are things like stones from when I go for my walks in Cottonwood (Island Park) or when I go with my friends to go collect fiddleheads and medicine in the forest we always have tobacco for us to offer and we always bring something back with us.”
When reflecting on medicines to put in the pouch it might not be about tobacco and sage.
“For me anything around us can be medicine,” Baptiste said. “And we always carry that with us in really sacred ways and the medicine pouch is one form of that. So when we get together to create these medicine pouches we get to talk about the medicines we want to use, things that fulfill us with the hope that afterward people will actually go and find those medicines for themselves.”
After creating a sacred object, like the medicine pouch, Baptiste said they know people will continue the journey and find what they need to fill that pouch.
Baptiste did not start their artistic path in the traditional ways. They said over the years they have been connected to many incredible artists but they don't have any formal background based in art.
“Really, I learned because I had opportunities to sit at people’s kitchen table and learn how to do it,” Baptiste explained.
That’s how the beadwork started.
“I’ve felt incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful people share their craft with me because it’s incredibly intimate,” Baptiste said. “The point of art is to have something inside of you and to communicate it to other people so figuring out that process of getting the internal to the external is so intimate and it’s heart work. Really when people look at my art what we’re doing is forming a heart connection because they’re connecting to a piece of me that usually doesn’t get verbally communicated.”
Baptiste grew up with their sister in their adoptive home with an Italian mother and British father and was encourage to ‘tell your story.’
“I grew up as a young Indigenous woman so my experience was being highly sexualized from a young age by passersby which really sucks because we’re on the Highway of Tears and that’s a reality we live with up here,” Baptiste said. “So my mom taught me - and my dad taught me also because he was in communications - to speak really clearly and to tell your story because the way that people get treated up here is not fair, especially growing up in care (in the foster care system). I lived in several different homes before I was adopted and my mom always said it’s OK to own your story, to express it to other people - there’s no shame in it - and it’s hard and there are a lot of difficult truths in it and those are the most important things to talk about.”
During the medicine pouch workshop Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place so chairs and tables will be set up to meet social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask while in the space is mandatory and hand sanitizer will be provided at every station. Rules will be posted throughout the venue.
To pre-register for the event visit https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/168196802163
For more information about the event and others happening this year as part of BC Culture Days until Oct. 24 visit https://culturedays.ca/.../cbed8d43-505b-4f34-978a