Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Dr Peter Centre Diaries, Part 2

Ok. This is just a pain in the patootie. I've spent the past hour or two looking for a picture of a tapestry I saw at the Dr Peter Centre in Vancouver. I mean, this tapestry is beautiful, and I wanted to write about it today, but not without being able to show it to you. (Perhaps someone at the Centre can take a picture and post in the comment section.) (hint hint)

Oh well.

I'm still going to tell you about it. Why? Well, not just because it is beautiful. I'm going to write about it for two reasons: First, it is a beautiful example what can be created when artists work in unity. Second, it reminds me of the Peace Tapestry at the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette.

After Dr peter passed away, a group of weavers got together to offer a befitting memento in his memory. Then, after designing it, they decided that it should be a group effort. They figured that it would convey more of the spirit of what they were trying to show and do if many hands worked on it, rather than just a few. This calls to mind the exhortations of both 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi for all the Baha'is to participate in the various affairs of the Faith, such as the building of the Temple in Wilmette. They wrote of the importance of the spiritual benefits of many, as opposed to only a few with greater degrees of wealth, contributing with devotion, sincerity and genuine enthusiasm. They seemed to imply that this would have a great spiritual impact on the efficacy of the Temple.

The tapestry these friends made is quite beautiful and includes many little symbols embedded within it, like the columns in the Temple. it is just laden with meaning, most of which is explained in a little paper they give you if you ask. There are small animals hidden within it, and each of them is used not only for their presence in the area he loved to visit, but also for the spiritual significance in the Native traditions.

While this tapestry was being woven, it was on display in, I think, a library. People could just walk up and offer to do a few stitches (or whatever it is called, for I'm sure that stitch is the wrong word). The news media got wind of this project and did some stories on it, and more and more people began to show up to offer what they could. People from all over the world came by to put in their little bit. Stories of people from Japan, Germany, and many other countries filled in the background of this tapestry, showing that we could all unite for a good cause. Many hundreds of people, I was told, helped in the making of this tapestry.

And there it is, hanging between the offices in the Dr Peter Centre, just to the right of the main entrance, there for all to see. It is very beautiful, and I really do hope that we can see it here soon. (I wanted to take a picture of it, but had been asked, for good reasons, to leave my camera at home when I visited.)

Now, I have to go back about 25 years for the other tapestry, the one I was reminded when I saw this one. Back in 1985, the Universal House of Justice released a marvelous document to the "Peoples of the World" about the inevitability of world peace, and the steps needed to achieve it.

One of the many responses to this was from an artist who decided to put the essential ideas of it into a large 4-part tapestry. It was filled with embroidered quotes from the message, and depicted some of the ideas in imagery. The first part was very dark and grey, with lines that spoke of the spectre of war, or the oppression of women, and the indignity of racism. As you moved along the piece, each subsequent panel got brighter and brighter, more colorful, and more optimistic.

The reasons I was reminded of this were multiple. First, it told a story. Second, it was a tapestry. Third, it was beautiful to look at. But mostly because of all the bits and bobs in it. When you look closely at the Peace Tapestry, you will see bits of string, odd bits of cloth, some beads, a feather or two. You will see all sorts of little things that, I was told, were contributed to the artist by people from all over the world. I've heard that one of the most difficult things she faced when making this glorious work of art was to figure out how to include all of the items she had been sent. Whether or not that is true, it is still wonderful, and a great example of many people contributing to a lasting legacy.

And it still bums me that I can't find pictures of either one on the internet.

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