PEACE BY PIECE: Stitching Together Canadian Stories

By October 19, 2016Happening, News
Quilt of Belonging

In order to celebrate Hamilton’s past and Canada’s 150th birthday, the Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association in partnership with The Cotton Factory will launch a month long exhibition in July to celebrate Canada’s rich and diverse cultural history.

A Stitch in Time, Piece by Piece is an exhibition showcasing artist Esther Bryan’s project, The Quilt of Belonging.

The Quilt of Belonging is a 120-foot long tapestry, that is 10.5 feet in height and comprised of 263 11-inch blocks. Either a First Nations person or an immigrant to Canada created each of the blocks. The Quilt tells the story of immigration and belonging, showcasing the designs of artists from a mosaic of cultures, including a strong focus on the First Nations, and was designed to communicate that there is a place for every person in our world.

imagesInitiated and lead by Artist Esther Bryan, this art-in-community project is the work of volunteers from British Columbia to Newfoundland and as far north as the Arctic Circle.

From across Canada, participants were invited to contribute their talents and ideas, and tell their stories. Each block hosts a range of materials, everything from sealskin to embroidered silk, butterfly wings, lace, beading and fur.

denmark_squareThe Vision of the Quilt of Belonging was to create a collaborative work of art recognizing the diversity of Canada and the world, while celebrating our common humanity and promoting harmony and compassion.

The project began in 1999 and took approximately 6 years to complete. In her book, Quilt of Belonging, The Invitation Project, Bryan writes, “If faith has been the pivotal ingredient, the volunteers, hundreds of ordinary people working together, have been the magical factory.”

Through extensive research, Bryan learned that Canada is made up of at least one person from every country in the world. One of the largest challenges was to locate people from each nation living in Canada and convince them to participate in the project.

The Quilt has been travelling for over a decade and has been visited by 1.4 million people. In 2015, Esther received a Governor General’s Medal for her significant achievement. Since its completion, the Quilt has launched a number of publications, educational materials and even a documentary feature film.


c8646320db2814e073e04b9fc43546ceTo this day, the Quilt continues to travel across the continent. It will be on view for the first time in Hamilton from July 15 to August 15, 2017, in The Cotton Factory at 270 Sherman Avenue North in Hamilton, and will travel to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The month long exhibition will include additional programming such as performances, workshops, demonstrations and talks by local textile artists. We hope to invite some of the artists who have contributed pieces to share their stories.

quilt-of-belonging-australiaEvery stitch, each piece of fabric sewn, weaved or appliquéd onto the Quilt has brought with it a piece of history, a thought, an emotion injected by the maker, witnessed by the community of volunteers who helped to put each stitch in time together. There are stories of sunshine, dancing, children, aging, sickness, the war, suffering, celebration, and last but not least, stories of overcoming and the hope for a new life. There is a place of connection for everyone. If, as the First Nations People say, “we all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors”, then the Quilt of Belonging is a gift from the ancestors of all our relations.



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