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L.A. Beat

Galt Museum showcases masks with Treaty 7 creativity in Breathe ( Second Wave)

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Masks are probably the last thing anybody wants to think about as the world is well into two years of  Covid 19, but they can be a beautiful thing, especially when they reflect Treaty 7 First Nations culture.

The Galt Museum presents a new travelling exhibit “Breathe (Second Wave),” until  the end of April.


Halli Heavy Shields speaks about the local contributions to Breathe (Second Wave) at the Galt Museum. Photo by Richard Amery

“ We have three remarkable exhibitions. They’re all individually crafted by  indigenous artisans,” said Chief Executive Officer / Executive Director Aaká óóhkotoki (Many rocks) Darrin Martens.

“ They’re all traditionally crafted mask demonstrating resilience in the twenty-first century,” Martens continued.


 The  exhibit features 50 masks designed by First Nations artists from all over Canada. There is leatherwork, a lot of traditional  bead work  and different masks including one  made out of Chinese take out menus. there is a quilt made entirely out of cloth masks as well.


Breathe is a travelling exhibit of artistic masks designed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists that explore the experience of navigating changing COVID-19 conditions.


It was inspired by Métis artists and co-curators Lisa Shepherd and Nathalie Bertin, who launched a Facebook group which now has over 2,300 members.

They issued a call for artists to submit artistic masks to the exhibition. The “first wave” of the exhibit has toured across Canada since 2020 and was shown in museums and galleries in Banff, Edmonton, Yellowknife and more. 

“ They come from as far away as  Nunuvut and the Northwest Territories,” said guest curator Tyler Glbert.

“ They reflect the power of resilience,” Gilbert added.


Special to this exhibit are five masks created  by local artists, curated by Kalli Eagle Speaker , including her favourite , a teal mask made by her sister Torry Eagle Speaker commemorating her daughter’s birth during the pandemic.

“ We have five really wonderful local artists. They’re all  really personal Eagle Speaker said, adding the masks   utilize traditional techniques with a modern twist.


“There are so many stories,” she said.

“They’re  using modern materials but creating traditional  beadwork,” she said.


“ I’m very excited for people to see this exhibit,” she continued.


“ These works show our ways and our designs of our people, while appreciating our history,” she said.

Breathe. (Second Wave) runs at the Galt Museum until April 29.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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