Debra Sparrow x Ruby Singh and the Dream Team
“I’ve always been kind of labelled as a Musqueam artist, but for me it was never about art. It was about creative intellectual property, the way in which our people reflected themselves in their communities or villages and their ceremonies.”
In collaboration with Musqueam master weaver Debra Sparrow (θəliχʷəlʷət), this striking composition continues to be developed by an intercultural string ensemble led by Vancouver artist Ruby Singh and includes Elisa Thorn (harp) and Andrea Wong (guzheng/violin/piano). The composition uses a visual score drawn from design elements in Sparrow’s blanket designs and weavings. The first part of this piece was presented in 2022 featuring a score using Sparrow’s Reconciliation blanket design (pictured below). This new work will expand on the first piece and be presented, outdoors and in the round, in the Chan Centre cedar grove, featuring string players, dancers, and a semi-improvised score.
Debra Sparrow has been deeply involved with the revival of Musqueam weaving for over 30 years, and has many years of study, trial, and learning directly from the work of her ancestors. Her work has been collected and exhibited nationally and internationally including The University of British Columbia, The Canadian Museum of History (previously Civilization), The Royal BC Museum, The Vancouver International Airport (YVR Collections), the Burke Museum (Seattle), and the Smithsonian. She was the recipient of the BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations Art in 2008. Most recently, she participated in “The Fabric of Our Land: Salish Weaving” at the Museum of Anthropology both as an exhibitor and as a regular, active weaving demonstrator using a traditional loom from the museum collection.
Recognizing weaving has the ability to offer stories of our heritage, it also serves as a traditional form of education to effectively teach us of math, science, history, and philosophy. It has been important for Sparrow to pass on the Salish weaving practice and Musqueam history to the future generations, which led to her involvement in the co-creation of the Musqueam Museum School with the University of British Columbia. Among teaching classes, she also shares her knowledge through public speaking, presentations, and publications (including UNESCO, 2001).