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Way Up West
by Jan Cox

Mi'kmaq Quill Art instructor Cheryl Simon, apprentices Marlene Thomas and Noella Moore, (missing from photo, apprentice Kayla Sark) (photo: Jan Cox)The women who make up the Mi’kmaq Artisans of Lennox Island are passionate about their art and their enthusiasm is infectious. Under the instruction of Cheryl Simon, apprentices Marlene Thomas, Noella Moore and Kayla Sark, are learning the fine art of classic Mi’kmaq Quill Art. When the women used the acronym for the group name, “MALI,” they realized this is a Mi’kmaq word for greatness, with an exclamation mark—something really special! And these warm and passionate women truly are an example of that.

“Since the 1600s, the Mi’kmaq people have been making quill art for sale,” explained teacher Cheryl Simon. A lawyer by profession, Cheryl realized that “our people need to do what we do. We need to learn about our heritage and culture. By learning this classic art form, we can contribute to the economy as the generations before us did.”

Beginning June 6, Mi’kmaq Quill Art will be on sale at the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Culture Centre. You can also see the artists at work during daily studio tours, but if you want a truly hands on experience, several workshops are being offered, “Mi’kmaq Quill Art for You.” Participants will spend the day at Lennox Island and will have the opportunity to harvest their materials needed out on the territory, learn about the different styles of this classic ancient art form, create their own quill work and be treated to a traditional lunch of moose stew and bannock. Three workshops are being hosted by MALI. The first coinciding with National Aboriginal Day, June 21 and then two other dates chosen because they fall on full moons, July 19 and August 18.

Spending only a short time with these amazing women, was a joyful experience for me. Cheryl, Marlene and Noella have so much to share, so much to give. Marlene and Noella are determined to become teachers of this craft as well.

Cheryl has a porcupine quill holder, fashioned in the traditional Mi’Kmaq Quill Art style, that is more than 200 years old. It is proudly treasured and an example of the beautiful work her ancestors created. Cheryl Simon wants a place where people can appreciate Mi’kmaq art, it’s her passion.

For more information about the upcoming workshops or the studio tours, contact Cheryl Simon at 902-809-6092.

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