Berry leads revival of
Oklahoma: After nearly being lost
to the ages, Southeastern-style beadwork
is experiencing a revival. Cherokee
artist Martha Berry has been leading
that revival for about 10 years.
Southeastern tribes might use beadwork crafts for diplomatic gift exchanges with white governments and other tribes. “You took the finest piece of art or craft that represents your people and tells the story of your people. You gave your very best,” Berry said.
Much of the Southeastern bead artwork that remains today is in museums and private collections. Sadly, the meaning of some early beadwork images from the 18th and 19th centuries has been lost.
“We only know that they were very
important because they were used over
and over again. They were trying to
preserve something and trying to pass it
on,” Berry said.
“They had nothing. They had to build farms, they had to put roofs over their heads, they had to feed their children and they had to put in a crop. They didn’t have time to put in 225 hours making a bandolier bag,” Berry said.
By the 20th century,
only plains tribes were visibly doing
beadwork, which is “very different” than
beadwork could be seen at powwows and in
early TV westerns. Berry started copying
those designs until research led her to
the traditional designs of her Cherokee
ancestors. The few remaining
Southeastern beaders helped her learn
Backgrounds: Robert Kaufman Fabrics: http://www.robertkaufman.com/
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