Community quilt project stitches together newcomer and Indigenous experiences in Canada

Neighbours is a community project led by Heather Majaury, an Alqonquin Anishinaabekwe performing artist. The exhibit features two quilts, one with squares created by newcomers to Canada and one with squares created by Indigenous people.

Children and families invited to help create a quilt and share stories during March Break

Heather Majaury is a performing artist the facilitator of the Neighbours community quilt project at the Queens Square Gallery in Cambridge. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

A new art exhibit at the Queen's Square Idea Exchange in Cambridge is inviting people to share their stories and help create a quilt this March Break.

Neighbours is a community project led by Heather Majaury, an Alqonquin Anishinaabekwe performing artist.

She was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 93, which calls on the federal government to work with Indigenous organizations "to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada."

"I started to question what that would mean at the local level, where we all interact together as neighbours, which is why we've called the piece Neighbours," Majaury said.

The newcomer quilt, designed by artist Katy Pfeiffer, features squares created by immigrants and new Canadians. Pfeiffer is a new Canadian, originally from the former Yugoslavia. (Robin De Angelis)

The exhibit features two quilts, one with squares created by newcomers to Canada and one with squares created by Indigenous people. The quilts are works in progress that will grow and evolve as more people contribute their stories.

"The newcomer quilt is an introduction: Who am I? Where am I from? Why am I here?" Majaury said.

"The Indigenous quilt is a question of, if you have this one square to express something, what would that be that you think is important for a newcomer to know about you, about your nation, about your community, about your family, about your history?"

The newcomer quilt, designed by Mohawk artist Wanda Wilson, represents "a collective of stories" from First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Majaury said the exhibit is meant to be a collaborative and interactive experience. Visitors are invited to sit in a circle in the centre of the room where they can talk and reflect on what it means to be a newcomer, Indigenous or a settler in Canada.

"This is an opportunity for everyone to engage in learning a little bit more about each other, in the context of our histories and in our current realities," she said.

There are also several activities planned for March Break, where children and families can make quilt squares, hear traditional tales of Turtle Island and join in talking circles.  

The Neighbours exhibit runs until April 20 at the Queen's Square gallery in the Idea Exchange.

The newcomer quilt captures the different experiences of people who have recently settled in Canada, specifically in block two of the Haldimand Tract. Each artist is also invited to share a story or a poem, connected to their quilt square. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)
A video of an artist creating a quilt square is projected on stretched raw deer hide, mounted on a European-style picture frame. The video was filmed and edited by Terre Chartrand, the artistic director of Pins and Needles Fabric Company. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)
Visitors to the exhibit are invited to sit in a circle and share their stories. They chairs are placed in the center of an outline of the continent as Turtle Island. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)


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