World Summit in Johannesburg
In the summer of 2002, I was contracted by the Government of Canada to be a weaver in the Canadian Pavilion in Umbutu Village, the cultural hub of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The theme at the Canadian Pavilion was “Weaving the Fabric of our Common Future”. Close to 50 tapestries were completed during the Summit on the subjects of Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Visitors of all ages and from all walks of life participated. I had organized containers of inviting materials to be used, but many people chose to contribute objects, messages and visual effects that held a special significance for them and which they wished to share with the rest of the world.
It was a very creative and thought-provoking project which drew on my many years’ experiences of multimedia weaving and basketry in non-traditional directions.
In Canada before we left, I designed the looms we were to use, threaded them, searched out materials to take with us and solved various associated logistical problems. On site, while always trying to be a good representative of my country, I worked with many beginning weavers and encouraged their creativity and participation. I finished off the tapestries, weaving in and around the contributions. As well, on a large floor loom, I wove another tapestry entitled “One World, One Family”, a much more traditional tapestry, albeit multimedia.
An unexpected offshoot of my work in the pavilion was helping people who work with refugees and impoverished peoples, to start projects using simple looms and recycled materials to make textiles, such as AIDS diapers, rugs of various kinds and screens, that could improve their life or income levels.
Many teachers were impressed with the concept of weaving to add texture to Art classes or Home Economics studies. For all of these experiences, I was fortunate to work with Marie Pierre Kroetsh, a weaver from the province of Quebec.
I met many interesting people while I was in South Africa. The first woman who contributed to the tapestries was a member of the National African Congress political party and a granddaughter of Mahatma Ghandi. I met many other politicians including David Anderson and Jean Chretien from Canada, the Japanese parliamentarian who had originally presented the Kyoto Accord, a Zulu Princess, and the third son of the second wife of the King of Oman.
There were many families and schoolchildren who toured our pavilion, and many ordinary people who have devoted their lives to helping people all over the world. It is easy to become discouraged by the state of the world, but I met so many wonderful people and heard so many success stories, that it left me feeling more encouraged and hopeful.
As well, the contact with African craftspeople inspired me. They have taken recycling to new artistic heights and I was warmed by their example. The music that I heard wherever I went made me hear music with new ears. My creative side was enriched.
South Africa is a cornucopia of plants and animals and I enjoyed my few “Game Drives” in National Parks and Reserves, and my walks through Botanical Gardens. We were fortunate to spend a few days in the Capetown area at the end of our time in Africa.
Really, I was fortunate to have had the whole experience! I am sure that the friendships, contacts, and inspirations that I gathered in Africa will continue to affect my life for a long time to come