Feather Dance: reconciliation through textile arts

Preparing for the Feather Dance.

Five Indigenous-designed liturgical stoles will be unveiled June 23 as the St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary community celebrates the results of a year-long collaborative arts-based reconciliation project.

The Feather Dance Liturgical Textile Arts Project was launched in July 2018 thanks in large part to a grant from the Sacred Arts Trust of the Anglican Foundation of Canada. The project included full-day gatherings centred on storytelling, wisdom sharing, relationship building and community handwork.

Every element of the project was designed under the direction of Indigenous designer Rikki Kooy. The resulting stoles are her original art, with the community assisting in the creative process under her guidance.

As an artist with decades of experience in fashion design in her Indigenous cultural tradition and a volunteer Residential School Survivor counsellor, Kooy brought both artistic and technical expertise and emotional depth to the experience.

Gatherings were infused with prayer-bound tenderness as participants were invited into contemplation as they stitched – contemplating the challenges of holding together both grief and hope, the call to repentance and the vision of restored relationship.

Rikki described the project as “a work of hands extended in friendship, reaching out to each other as we walk the journey of faith together.”

The project itself was born of friendship. Rikki Kooy and St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary gathering priest Melanie Calabrigo met over 20 years ago and were delighted when the idea of a collaborative project presented itself in 2017.

Melanie gave this recap of the story at the latest gathering:

With Rikki’s vision of feathers and their meaning in the context of friendship and relationship, Hildegard’s vision of being ‘a feather on the breath of God,’ our imaginations were ignited.

For St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary, as an arts-based, contemplative, Christian community, it was clear that the project needed to be a tactile, meaning-making endeavour, something that would embody the community’s commitment to the essential, transformative work of reconciliation. When they hit upon the idea of designing and creating liturgical stoles in a collaborative process, the plans started taking shape.

The project has landed true to the vision. Feather Dance has been an embodied act of reconciliation, of relationship and connection. In the words of one participant,

There’s an intimacy to working with cloth, and thread, and needle. It’s literally about making connections, quietly and deliberately. Stitching memorial crosses into the stoles is literally stitching remembrance into the very fabric of our worship.

And what a gift to be invited to contemplate designs that call to mind the Spirit Helper, Healer, and Protector as we embellish the stoles with stitch and stone and abalone and feathers. The intimacy of the experience has been very moving. Unforgettable.

The community of St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary is sending out a broad invitation to bear witness to the fruits of this remarkable project. The stoles will be unveiled on Sunday June 23, 3 pm, at St. Faith’s Anglican Church (7284 Cypress Street, Vancouver). Those who wish to stay for St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary’s 6 pm service will see one of the stoles worn for the first time.

Although this portion of the project will be completed in June, the friendships nurtured in the process will, no doubt, continue. The St. Hildegard’s community also hopes to raise further funds to continue this creative collaboration and to broaden its reach.

St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary is an inclusive, arts-based contemplative Christian community that gathers on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples. Contact: [email protected]</em

All photos by Sandra Vander Schaaf. This article was first posted on the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster website and is posted here by permission.

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1 comment for “Feather Dance: reconciliation through textile arts

  1. As Rikki Kooy’s husband of 53 years, I was witness to this process of idea to creation and presentation. I feel that this article describes both the intent and acceptance of this art project and its relevance at this time of reconciliation. The robes and banner show the pain of residential schools wrapped in the symbols and beauty of native art.

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