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The Second Wave

JUNE 9 – OCTOBER 16, 2022

In early March 2020, Covid-19 arrived in Canada beginning a long period of isolation, closures and distress. Shortly thereafter, the Whyte Museum closed its doors, but stayed in touch with our community through on line video presentations. Some of you were able to view the first Breathe exhibition in person but the majority were restricted to our online interview with co-creators and Métis artists Nathalie Bertin and Lisa Sheppard.


The genesis for the exhibition first evolved within the first two weeks of the shut down.  Both Nathalie and Lisa noticed a distinct absence of beaded objects being made by traditional artisans. For them it was curious as they assumed it was the exact time artists should be creating. Known as the Flower Beadwork People, the Métis put their distinct style of beading on a wide variety of objects and garments as a general practice. In speaking with their peers, Nathalie and Lisa learned that the pandemic had completely blocked the creativity of many.  For some, it was a déja-vu to generations prior whose relatives were gravely impacted by infectious diseases. Very quickly Nathalie and Lisa invited indigenous artists to create hand-crafted masks. Realizing the effect of the pandemic impacted all populations, they soon opened the call to anyone, in any traditional medium authentic to their own culture and artistic practice. Artists from Canada, the US, many parts of Europe, Australia and New Zealand responded with the resulting success prompting a second circulating exhibition.


Each traditionally crafted mask tells a unique story of the artists’ experience and share a common message on the importance of breath. Constructed of diverse materials, these 90 contemporary artifacts record a significant historical moment in human history.

Image: Terri Thomas, Gray Areas, 2020

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