Recent History – 1999
July 6, 1999
By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
Native artisans from all over northern B.C. will be gathering in Prince George for the third annual Northern B.C. Native Arts and Crafts Trade Show taking place July 9 to 11.
Held at the Civic Centre, the show will feature native dancing, singing and food, story telling by elders, and demonstrations such as carving, drum-making, and tanning hides, says co-organizer Melanie Labatch.
“The exhibition will expose the public to a whole variety of native art work from across northern B.C.,” she says.
One of the artists on display will be local designer Garry Oker. Oker ran the native design and culture studies program in Dawson Creek for eight years and was instrumental in starting the Northern Shadow Dancers. Now living in Charlie Lake, Oker owns a home-based business, Akazaze Design Corporation, manufacturing clothing with native designs, which will soon be marketed across North America.
His newest line of active-wear is called Symbols, with designs based on the land, animals and other native culture. It will be on display at the trade show, he says, both at a booth and in a fashion show.
“There’s a lot of activity going on in the arts and crafts that have been developed by native people and a lot of native people are now going into business in this field to market their products,” he says.
Labatch agrees, saying the show is all about opening up opportunities for talented native artists to reach markets that may not otherwise be available to them.
“For the artists I just want to see an increased awareness as to who they are, for people to be able to buy their products,” she says.
Last year, about 1,000 people came through the show, Labatch says.
“The positive spin-off from it was amazing. People come out to our area and say ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was here!”
“Everything was seen in a very positive light,” she adds.
Previous shows have been held in Fort St. James and on the Stoney Creek Reserve near Vanderhoof, and have been educational for the general public about life on the reserve, Labatch says.
“Let’s face it, there’s so many stereotypes out there, we need to educate people. The more people know, the more understanding they can have,” she says.
“There’s a lot of talent in different areas of native culture and when people come to see that, it really opens up their eyes to what’s really happening among native people,” Oker agrees.
In the past the show has drawn spectators from as far away as Abbotsford, Labatch says, and is bound to attract more tourists this year.
“Tourists have shown a great fascination with native culture, so we’re hoping for a large turnout,” she says.
The show encourages communities to work together and celebrate the unique talents of many local native artists, she adds.
“It’s building a foundation of solid community support that benefits everybody.”
Seminars on marketing, show opportunities, arts funding and display techniques will also be offered and are open to the public.