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Speaking to past and present, Clarissa Rizal’s Resilience Robe

Video transcript

[Music] I'm in the Portland Art Museum with Lily hope looking at a beautiful Chilkat robe woven by your mother this resilience robe is a modern take on an ancient design Chilkat weaving originates from the northwest coast so she has elements of traditional a bird with wings and a tail and the claws and the feather is coming down on the points of these wings and then within that body of the bird these modern influences so for example I notice the letters A and B on the left and ans on the right so the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood key in bringing about sovereignty if you can say that bringing about power and to the indigenous peoples so that we had a unified voice and we also see the logo of C Alaska right in the center this was the original Sealaska corporation design and that corporation is one of the 13 corporations in Alaska who organized to support the indigenous peoples of southeast Alaska so the klinken people have been around for thousands of years and here we have just the last hundred two hundred years of these influences we even have in the very tail of this design Sealaska heritage institute's original logo okay support arts education and all sorts of support for Alaska Native artists and scholars and that education is so important because these are traditional ways of creating that must be passed down to new generation so that they're not lost Sealaska heritage institute is dedicated to perpetuating endangered art forms Chilkat weaving is one of them and your mother clarissa learned this technique from someone who had practiced it for decades yes and you yourself are a weaver carrying on this tradition trained under my mother and she learned from Jenny flow not who is this very revered Weaver Jenny sonnet wove over 90 large weavings in her lifetime which is phenomenal when you think about Weaver is taking a year year and a half or four years to finish one rope and Jenny was 90 we're not just talking about going down to the corner and buying some yarn it's three or four months of preparation gathering the bark treating it shredding it spinning it together with the wool traditionally goats hair the spinning is done on the thigh really labor-intensive requires an enormous amount of skill and patience I imagine it is months of work before you even get to hang your warp on your loom and we call it a loom but it's more of a frame normally we think about loom as having the warp the vertical threads attached at the top and the bottom and here they're only attached at the top which means that the weaver has to have an enormous amount of skill to keep the tension even as you are winding the weft through the warp how you hold your hands makes all the difference in whether you have a funky little weaving or you have a nice firm fiber that's danceable and this Chilkat weaving uses four colors black yellow turquoise and white they would be commissioned by clan leaders or heads of the communities and still are you have to have a deep pocket book for these robes there's some of the most prestigious pieces of art you can own from the Northwest Coast art historians refer to this kind of pattern as form line design this ovoid and circular shapes these black lines that get thin and thick so these are very similar to the designs that one would see in wood carving but here adjusted for leaving these are made by women where traditionally the carving would be done by men Chilkat robes often hold the crests and clan emblems of the people of the north west coast and I know that this robe features an eagle and a raven both important animals blanket culture so this robe is an eagle and a raven we say it's moiety which is a French anthropological term which means half and in Klink it culture you are eagle or you are raven and traditionally you would marry your opposite and there's something very balance about the robe it's kind of perfect that way she has embodied both the a and B and the ANS the eagle and the Raven we have elements of not just strength in the clink 't people in the people of Southeast Alaska but we also have the outside influences on these outer panels the gold panning that happened museums and schools that came in and helped us to fit in in the Western world and we also see ships so we have the influences of trade on the northwest coast from the Russians from the English coming over on their ships and they would bring us not just disease right but buttons and wool blankets so we get those influences which weren't all bad there are probably hundreds of people who know how to choke at weave and most of us practice it as a hobby there are probably less than ten of us who have the time and expertise to weave a full size robe the time involved to make a robe of this size it's not something that everyone can afford or know how to do it's a huge commitment I just put my second robe on the loom and the overwhelming feeling of that of okay this is what I'm doing for the next year and a half it's terrifying and it's also so gratifying it looks like it's heavy to wear it's seven or eight pounds of merino wool with cedar bark spun into it and it's like a hug when you put it on when it drapes over your shoulders you want to move because that fringe dances around you and your knees down to your calves and you just want to shake your shoulders back and forth and feel what that's like to move and bring it alive there is such a spiritual power in these robes that we don't fully understand even now and we protect not just the wearer but we protect the teachings and how to pass this information on [Music]