Chilkat continuum: Juneau weaver hopes art form becomes globally recognized

Chilkat continuum: Juneau weaver hopes art form becomes globally recognized

Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: June 1st, 2017

Tlingit weaver Lily Hope, Sealaska Heritage’s current artist-in-residence, celebrated the completion of her first full-sized Chilkat robe Tuesday afternoon in the clan house at the Walter Soboleff Building with a public event that included singing, dancing, and gift giving.

(Lily Hope with husband, Ishmael Hope)

(Lily Hope hands the robe to Mike Murawski, director of education and public programs for the Portland Art Museum)

At the end of the gathering, the robe was formally handed over to the Portland Museum of Art, who commissioned it from Lily for its upcoming exhibit “The Art of Resilience: The Continuum of Tlingit Art.”

(Lily by Ishmael Hope, who is dancing a Chilkat tunic woven by Cora Benson, Jennie Thlunaut’s teacher and one of the four women in Chilkat lineage the museum is highlighting)

Lily’s robe is one of four in the exhibit connected by the same teaching lineage; the other three are Chilkat robes made by Lily’s mother and teacher, the late Clarissa Rizal; Clarissa’s teacher, master weaver Jennie Thlunaut; and Jennie’s teacher, Cora Benson.

(Lily weaving the robe in 2016 at SHI’s Delores Churchill Artist-in-Residence studio)

Lily spent many hours in 2016 and 2017 working on the robe in SHI’s Delores Churchill Artist-in-Residence Studio. In the middle of the project, her mother, Clarissa Rizal, passed away.

At Tuesday’s event, Lily described with emotion her journey as a weaver under her mother’s mentorship and acknowledged her continued presence, addressing her directly…

…as she prepared to cut the robe from the loom.

After being released from the loom, the robe was danced by Lily Hope’s aunt, Deanne Lampe (at microphone), while another aunt, Irene Lampe (right), sang a song by T’akdeintaan clan member John K. Smith, accompanied by Sharon Lee.

To maintain balance, songs and words were also offered by clans from the opposite moiety. Speakers in addition to Lily included her husband Ishmael Hope, Tlingit elder Paul Marks (right), SHI President Rosita Worl and Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott.

Mallott said Lily’s robe is a beautiful example of an ancient artform being carried forward across generations. “One of the reasons we’ve survived and thrived for 10,000 years is our ability and responsibility to listen to the wisdom of our ancestors… and to not only create art and beauty in their honor, but to teach our children and grandchildren,” he said.

Worl, who is Jennie Thlunaut’s granddaughter, said in her brief remarks that she was honored to be present with Lily, Clarissa, and her grandmother Jennie. “It is wonderful to see my grandmother’s life coming through you,” she told Lily.

Lily, a Raven of the T’akdeintaan clan, has been weaving Ravenstail since 1995 and Chilkat since 2010.

She said though it was difficult to part with the robe, it is her dream to help build an awareness and recognition of Chilkat weaving on a global scale, and the robe’s presence in the museum exhibit would bring that dream closer to becoming a reality.

The Portland Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibit includes 100 historic Tlingit works from the museum’s permanent collection and 50 contemporary works by “the most accomplished Alaska Native artists working today,” according to the museum. In addition to Chilkat and Ravenstail robes, it will include transformation masks, bentwood chests, and ornamental and utilitarian objects. It is scheduled to open in 2019.

(Photos by Nobu Koch)

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