We welcome to our Festival market place this year One Nation Exchange, a unique and inspiring social enterprise that began as an intercultural collaborative art project in Winnipeg’s North End.
Here is their story, from their website:
Inspiration: The city of Winnipeg has the largest Indigenous population of all major Canadian cities. In 2014, Manitoba welcomed the highest recorded number of refugees per capita in Canada. This same year, a North End drop-in for mothers and young children hosted “First Nations, All Nations: Setting the Table”: a sharing circle/art project to bring together indigenous mothers with their newcomer neighbours.
Conversation: Once a week for 6 weeks, 15-25 women gathered in Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre to meet, enjoy cultural foods and learn phrases from each other’s languages. We shared childhood stories, values we were taught as children, and dreams for own sons and daughters. We spoke, wrote, sculpted and drew.
Creation: Professional printmaking artist Karen Cornelius integrated our stories and drawings into a beautiful “One Nation” emblem. This emblem was silkscreened onto a tablecloth for each women’s home, symbolizing the belief that how we “set the table” together today will determine the atmosphere around the table when our children sit down to join us. We collectively embroidered and beaded two of these tablecloths.
Celebration: Upon completion, approximately 100 community members celebrated this project together at an outdoor “Bread and Bannock Fest” featuring indigenous and African drummers and Canadian singer/songwriter Nathan Rogers.
Expansion: This same emblem was silkscreened onto fabric panels and sewn into striking canvas bags as varied and colourful as the women themselves. Sewing machines were purchased, women were offered free sewing instruction, and these bags began to be be produced for sale in the community.
Women trained in sewing the bags were given kits to sew together over the summer, along with new sewing machines and the opportunity to purchase them at a reduced cost. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights began selling One Nation bags in their gift boutique, while consumer demand continued in the greater community.
Mitchell’s Fabrics provided fabric at greatly reduced cost, EQ3 Furniture generously donated discontinued fabric rolls and leather samples, and Levy’s Leathers contributed a commercial leather sewing machine. The dream grew larger…
One Nation: With the assistance of SEED Winnipeg in 2016, we further developed our vision for a social enterprise focused on creating opportunities for intercultural exchange, training, and employment for women representative of Canada’s diverse cultures.
On International Women’s Day 2017, our not-for-profit incorporation papers were submitted and One Nation Exchange was born.
Liz Boily volunteers with O.N.E. to organize their market sales and is also a regular at the Manitoba Fibre Festival. She is happy to be introducing the women and the products of O.N.E. to other Festival visitors this September. This is what Liz has to say about the project:
“Having moved between provinces a couple of times this past decade, a sense of community and belonging has become very important to me. After three years in Winnipeg I can say that a large part of community for me has been volunteering with One Nation Exchange. My involvement has brought me connections not only with the women and children in the program but with other people in Winnipeg.
Every hand-made item purchased from One Nation Exchange comes with two tags. One explains the symbolism of the One Nation Emblem. The other says: “Your neighbour made this for you”. It immediately connects you with the maker of your item and the larger community that supports the One Nation Exchange program. A community that includes the volunteers who teach the sewing program and prepare our bag kits, local businesses who assist in providing materials and retailers who sell O.N.E. items, and other local organizations that offer referrals for new program participants and business ideas. The hope for cultural unity expressed in the emblem speaks to so many people and your support means that message is spreading.”
Be sure to visit the One Nation Exchange booth at the Festival and meet your neighbours.