"Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization."
A couple of years ago I found myself sitting in front of Grandmother Kate, as she prefers to be called, listening to her presentation entitled 'Words Before All Else'. She explained that these words were spoken in her community, the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, before each gathering. 'These words are spoken to thank every aspect of the natural world for its contribution to all of life.' On this day Kate 'spoke to my heart'.
I sought her out after the presentation and asked for a copy of these words with the idea that I would create something, maybe a painting. My painting never came. But, I found Kate with me on so many occasions, on my walks along the trails in my community in Alliston, kayaking or walking the trails at Tiny Marsh Provincial Refuge near my cottage or pointing out a bird to my 2 year old granddaughter using the sign for bird. 'Everything has a Spirit'.
My interest in the book as an art piece is not new. I studied book arts and paper making at the Ontario College of Art and Design. This book My Heart is Touched, was started some eight months ago with writing thoughts on scraps of paper, sketching, printing, pasting, folding and cutting, etc.
My book became layered in meaning. I had decided on a 'winged, accordion book' because the wings reminded me of words and messages being passed on wings from one person to another.
The book covers are made of my handmade papers of cotton and corn husks. The end papers have inclusions of seeds that continued to grow during the drying phase of the paper making process indicating growth both personal and between 2 people.
The paper used in each card was first marked by inks made from berries, bark, pine cones and acorns that I gathered and boiled down in marsh water to make a syrupy ink. I made mark-making tools out of pine needles, feathers, dried flowers, pine cones, all attached to sun-dried twigs found washed up on the beach.
In the folding of the winged accordion book, pockets are created, pockets perfect for the words that Grandmother Kate shared with me. These words are hand written on cards and the cards can be easily removed. The viewer is invited to remove each card and read the words that so touched my heart. Through the exchange of cultural traditions of our everyday life we move towards achieving diversity.
Kindness towards each other is encouraged in the words from Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness, written by James K. Manley. This is a favourite of mine and adds another layer with the words running along the top of each pocket. This song can also be read to treat the natural environment with the same kindness that we treat each other.
I have been on a journey over the past two years as a result of my meeting with Grandmother Kate and it is my hope that the viewer will join in on my journey through hands on interaction with my handmade winged accordion book.
Written by artist, Sandra Beatt
Learn more about Sandra and her work here.