Brilliant Beadwork and Turkey Feather Showstopper

Lenapehoking at Greenpoint Library January 20, 2022 to April 30, 2022

Turkey Feather Cape by Rebecca Haff Lowry of the Delaware Tribe of Indians. It is made of turkey feathers, glass beads, dentallum shells, and hemp string and completed in 2021.  Photo credit: Lori Doyon

Before Europeans arrived on North American soil, the land of the Lenape covered a general area that contains Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley to Delaware — this expanse would include New York City and therefore the Greenpoint Library.  Lenapehoking the first Lenape curated exhibition of Lenape cultural arts, both historic and contemporary, in the City of New York is on view at the Greenpoint Library (107 Norman Avenue) from January 20—April 30. The Lenape word Lenapehoking translates to Lenape homeland. 

The exhibit is located on the 2nd floor in the library’s Eco-Lab 1.  A docent is on hand to guide and answer any questions. Gallery hours for the exhibit are: Wednesdays: 10 a.m.–2 p.m., Thursdays: 4 p.m.–7 p.m, Fridays: 10 a.m.– 2 p.m., and Saturdays: 11 a.m.– 4 p.m.  The Greenpoint Library is currently closed on Sundays.

“The exhibition features masterworks by Lenape artists past and present. Beadwork, a turkey feather cape, and a culinary tapestry from the seed rematriation project are examples of the survivance and beauty of Lenape culture,” says curator, Joe Baker of the Delaware Tribe of Indians and executive director and co-founder of Lenape Center.

The back of one of the bandolier bags on display at Lenapehoking. It was created in 1999, by Joe Baker, curator of the exhibit, executive director and co-founder of Lenape Center, and member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians. The bag is made of wool and glass beads.  Photo credit: Lori Doyon

Baker contributed three of his beaded bandolier bag creations to the exhibit; the earliest of these was made in 1999.  There are five bandolier bags in the exhibit, the other two are from 1830–1850s. Baker stated that it could take at least a year to do the beadwork on a bag.  The bags have wide straps and generally a 9-inch x 9-inch bag, the beading covers most if not all of the fabric, the designs are bold, colorful, and many with floral motifs.  These were worn by the men of the tribe.   

Close up of the beading in the above bandolier bag

A virtual opening was held the evening of January 20, which combined live elements and a short prerecorded tour with curator Baker.

In addition to the works on display in the gallery, the library’s roof garden will also play a role.  “Greenpoint Library’s rooftop teaching garden features Indigenous fruit trees that were cultivated by the Lenape in Manhattan, creating much needed continuity between ecological past and present. Original music, poetry and Lenape foodways by Lenape artists and friends will be incorporated into the programming during the run of the exhibition,” said Baker.  The roof is only open to the public during events.  The roof event that will feature the teaching garden is in the planning stages, but it is likely to happen toward the end of the exhibit when spring brings warmer weather.

The exhibit can look deceptively brief at first, but this begs for closer looks that lead to a deeper appreciation.  Perhaps then the pieces will speak to you, as indicated in one of the exhibit’s signs at the entrance/exit, “I am a bandolier bag of the Lenape people.  My creator’s attentive hands worked for a year or more to bring me to life. Carefully stringing my tiny beads into intricate patterns. The artist stitched energy into me.”  Take your time and you may feel this energy.

Lenapehoking at Greenpoint Library (107 Norman Avenue) from January 20, 2022 to April 30, 2022. For more information and gallery hours visit: www.bklynlibrary.org/exhibitions/lenapehoking

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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