Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Artist Jean Baptiste is looking forward to hosting an in-person medicine pouch making workshop in Prince George, B.C. later this month.
Baptiste is part of the ambassador program for BC Culture Days, part of an annual national celebration of arts and culture that takes place at the end of each September. Millions of people attend thousands of free events across the country each year.
“Really, their goal is to bring awareness about arts and culture and the importance of it for people to connect to their communities, to connect to other people,” Baptiste said of BC Culture Days.
“Our role is to host our own events that are free and accessible for people across the province. What we're trying to do is to encourage people to explore new and creative ways of reconnecting with our communities.”
Hosted at the Omineca Arts Centre on Sept. 29, Baptiste says the pouch-making workshop will be a much-needed chance to lead an arts class in-person.
“It’s such a great opportunity to connect with the community after being in isolation for a year-and-a-half,” Baptiste said. “I think it's just going to be really beautiful to get together and connect in a time where folks are probably feeling really disconnected.”
Distancing protocols and mask use will be in effect. The free workshop will offer participants the chance to create their own leather medicine pouch, a traditional piece that the owner can use to carry sacred medicines day-to-day.
“When I think about medicine pouches, like they aren't just these little objects,” Baptiste said. “They're sacred things that really create community. They're gifted amongst other people. They're really community involved, even though it's a singular item, which I find to be just an amazing concept.”
Baptiste is looking forward to sharing the beading experience with some first-time attendees of the workshop. Leather, needles, thread, beads and other items needed for the pouches will be supplied, but participants are encouraged to bring their own supplies as well if they would like.
“It's really important to share that back to the community of holding a workshop in a way for people to learn some tactile skills like sewing and beading and the teachings around beading,” Baptiste said.
“What we're trying to do is to encourage people to explore new and creative ways of reconnecting with our communities. And we’re doing that through our personal art through demonstrations.”
Baptiste began their own beading experience in 2018 and credits mentor Jennifer Pighin as one of their biggest influences.
“I've been taught through mentorships and I've had some really incredible opportunities to work with lots of different artists, storytellers, poets, filmmakers, and performing artists. And none of that has been through art institutes or anything like that... It's just been connecting to different people,” Baptiste added.
A non-binary, two-spirit member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in the Laksilyu clan, Baptiste said their hope is that the workshop will help create space for marginalized communities in the arts industry.
“I was raised in care. I'm a trans, queer, Indigenous person in a northern BC community. None of those things are incredibly popular at any given time,” Baptiste said.
Baptiste hopes that their connection to the art world, including through public programs like the workshop, will help create a sense of community for themselves and others.
“Everything that I do is a declaration of a resistance to erasure,” Baptiste added. “I just want to feel whole and connected. Things that resonate with me are places where people can feel safe and feel like they can grow. And so for me, my goals are to find and create spaces where that growth is possible. [It’s important] just to have people be themselves, because that can be such a rare opportunity for some folks.”
Interested participants can sign up for the workshop, and for many other events and workshops at https://culturedays.ca
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.