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Cultural Tradition Carries on at Basket-Weaving Workshop

Dec. 29, 2007 — Children and adults listened intently Saturday as Maria Stiles instructed them on the cultural art of basket weaving.
"Once you know how to make baskets, show someone else the art," Stiles urged. "We don't want to forget what our ancestors knew."
The weaving class was part of the Earth Garden Series of workshops that began Thursday. They were held at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in Frederiksted. Its final workshop on Monday is a group creation of a Kwanzaa quilt.
The Earth Garden Series was developed by Tahirah Abu Bakr and is funded by a community grant from FirstBank. The Holiday Arts and Crafts workshop Saturday was the latest in a series of workshops Stiles and Abu Bakr have taught this year. This summer they hosted workshops at Whim Plantation teaching African dance, drumming and jewelry making with seeds.
"Our goal is to teach youth environmental arts using nature's artifacts," Stiles said. Earlier Saturday, children created maracas using a calabash filled with jumbie beans. One child painted his maraca solid yellow, making it look like a lemon. Others created detailed cultural and holiday symbols using red, yellow and green acrylic paints.
"From this the children will learn appreciation for nature and take care of the world we live in," Stiles said.
Recycling played a big part in the workshop on card making Thursday. The children were asked to bring in old magazines, wrapping paper and old greeting cards to create unique designs. Friday the children used plastic gallon jugs to create their own carnival masks.
"I loved making the maracas and masks," Oresha Elva said. "I look forward to coming to class Monday."
Stiles and Abu Bakr learned the cultural crafts from local cultural bearers. Artisan Veronica Gordon taught the ladies the art of working with the calabash. Judy Bain, weaver and CEO of Ten Thousand Helpers, passed on the art of basket weaving. Bain also makes Crucian dolls woven of multi-colored reed.
Monday's quilt workshop is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Children will create a group quilt that illustrates the seven principals of Kwanzaa. Those principals are unity, self -determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Participants will receive a transfer of the quilt to put on a T-shirt. The quilt will go on display permanently in the CMC gallery.
"The workshops have been well attended and parents have asked us to continue with more programs," Stiles said.
The workshops are free for youths from 8 to 15 years old. Adults may attend accompanied by a child.
For more information or to register, call 772-2291.
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