By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Tasha Abourezk (Mandan/Hidatsa), 2017 Cultural Capital Fellow, uses textiles to explore her Mandan/Hidatsa heritage as well as contemporary politics. She stitches culture and textiles together, leaving the viewer to question deeper realities behind the work.
Culture and quilting were important in Tasha’s childhood. Though her two grandmothers’ quilting work differs from hers, Tasha credits them as among her greatest instructors and sources of inspiration.
At her new studio space at Hot Shops Art Center, Tasha is creating new pieces for her first juried art show, Native POP: People of the Plains in Rapid City, SD in July. She resides in Omaha with her husband Rich and their three children.
Rummaging through a box of old fabric, Tasha found a star her grandmother had made. It seeded an image in Tasha that longed to come out, to express itself, to tell its story with thread.
I caught a glimpse.
Dancing into the old village
lodges all around.
Shawl gently swinging
to our far away sound.
A poem Tasha had written years before to honor her grandmother soon became a quilted piece. Her grandmother walking away, a lone figure to represent Tasha’s loneliness for her. Tasha added the old star to the shawl on the quilt. It was as though she and her grandmother had created the whole piece together.
When Tasha fell in love with quilting as an art form, she set her sights on becoming a full-time artist. She also wanted to help young people experience quilting for themselves.
Living near the Omaha Indian Reservation, Tasha sought a way to introduce youth to the art of quilting and awaken their minds to the possibility of textile art as a career. With support from her First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital grant, Tasha partnered with the Nebraska Writers Collective — who founded “Louder than a Bomb: Great Plains” — to help high school students embrace expressing themselves through poetry and a self-portrait.
The project began with poems which they then translated into drawings, and finally, onto quilt squares. Tasha plans to sew these squares together and present the finished piece for the school to hang on a wall alongside the students’ poems.
Tasha’s First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital program has empowered her to grow as an artist and to help others find their path. She recently stitched her first full-sized quilt and plans to name it in honor of First Peoples Fund.
On her journey, Tasha follows her grandmother’s swaying shawl. It leads her down the path of honoring their traditions. Every quilt carries a story wrapped inside it.