The Gordon Parks Gallery opened “We are Anishinaabe: Honoring Textile Traditions” on Oct. 26. The exhibit features clothing designed by Delina White and her two daughters, Lavender Hunt and Sage Davis.
White lives on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, and is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Drawing on centuries of tradition, she uses beads, bones, shells, and other types of materials to create her clothing. “I want to continue Anishinaabe traditions by building a legacy and sharing my knowledge. I can honor [my ancestors] by sharing what is old and making it new again,” White said.
White and her daughters designed all the different skirts, bags, earrings, and necklaces that are displayed on mannequins and in photographs in the Gordon Parks Gallery. “I describe my work as traditional Anishinaabe—meaning that the core design has a strong connectiveness to the culture and people of the Great Lakes and woodlands.” White said.
The colorful dresses that White creates are not just for art and fashion. The clothing is also used in ceremonial dances and pow wows. And the clothing can have purposes that go beyond the pow wow. For example, in the exhibition is a blue beaded bandolier bag that has mirrors sewn into the fabric. “Mirrors are important because they attract spirits,” White said.
Guest curator for the exhibition is Margaret Miller, founder and former executive director of the Textile Center in Minneapolis. She sought to highlight how, in Anishinaabe culture, “tradition comes through textile work, which is a practice they continue to do even today. To show their tradition and their reverence for the nature that they respect so much.”
This environment ethic is seen in the different types of materials that White uses and the patterns displayed upon the clothing. Some of the skirts in the gallery are adorned with patterns of deer and corn stalks.
“The Anishinaabe people have always been concerned about the environment and the importance of taking care of the environment,” said Miller. “The teachings of these people and their elders is something that we should pay attention to, which ties to our international issues that we are facing. [For any student] who is studying global issues, I think this [exhibit] would pertain to them.”
“We are Anishinaabe” is open through Nov. 22. The Gordon Parks Gallery is located on the third floor of the Library and Learning Center; hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday. Admission is free.