When Karen Terbasket was asked to create something that represented resilience, an image of her mother immediately came into her mind and she had to sketch it.
Terbasket’s mother, Delphine, endured 13 years of horrific conditions while attending residential school, first in Cranbrook, then in Kamloops.
The sketch of her mother proudly wearing full dance regalia is one of several of Terbasket’s pieces being displayed at the Penticton Art Gallery as part of the En’Owkin Centre’s annual exhibition this year titled ReSilience #597.
“Culture was so important to her because she had to give up so much when she was in school,” said Terbasket.
“When she came back she started getting involved in every aspect of our community. She taught all of us how to tan hides, basketmaking … all of the traditional arts. We were 10 or 12. It was important for her to pass that along and know that we knew it.”
Her mother raised six daughters — which requires a resilience of it’s own, Terbasket agreed with a knowing smile.
The strong woman was devoted to her family and dedicated to her community. Over the years Delphine continued with every educational opportunity available, so could take on challenging roles with hopes of making a difference for her people. She worked for years as the band manager at the Lower Similkameen Indian Band before becoming the executive director of the Interior Indian Friendship Society in Kamloops.
“She spent all her life working to make things better for people. Her work in Kamloops was so important to her because she was helping people who lived off reserve. She would say on reserve we have each other but those living off reserve don’t have that and have so many more challenges,” said Terbasket.
New to pencil sketching, the portrait of her mother is just the third Terbasket has done. Her progression in the art form can be seen through the three pieces she’s completed as a student in the National Aboriginal Professional Artist Training program offered through the En’owkin Centre. The program is the only one of its kind in the country, partnering with University of Victoria so credits earned in Penticton are applied to an undergraduate degree in fine art.
Another of the artists in the upcoming show, Roslyn Hall Jackson, said her piece was inspired by a photo she saw on social media.
“I wanted to get back into traditional art. One of my friends posted a basinet on their Facebook page and when I saw it I said, ‘Wow. I want to do that.’ My daughter was having a baby and I wanted to make it for grandson that was coming.”
She connected with an old friend named Jerry Thomas in Salmon Arm who knew how to make the basinet out of Birch bark and root. She and her daughter travelled to Salmon Arm and over the course of a weekend learned how to make the beautiful bassinet.
“He had everything ready for us and spent a good half a day helping us put it together. I came back and continued to work on the edging.”
She learned the basinet could only be used by the infant for whom it was made.
“I was told you can only use it once because that baby’s spirit is there. Either it has to be given back to the ground by digging a hole and putting water on it or you have to hang it in a tree,” she said.
Her grandson has been using it since he was born, but will soon outgrow it. He is two months old and his weight is hovering around 20 pounds.
Jackson said the experience of making the basinet with her daughter epitomizes resilience.
“It’s a part of our culture. It’s bringing back our culture. Not a lot of people have basinets for their babies or newborns,” she said. “I wasn’t brought up with a lot of culture and stuff and neither was my kids so this is helping all of us bring back our culture and bring back our language.”
Dr. Michelle Jack of the En’owkin Centre said the exhibition is titled ReSilience #597 because the strength of the Aboriginal culture can easily be visualized through artwork.
“The exhibit is to showcase and think about resilience of community, elders, children and culture in general for all Indigenous people. Some of the pieces that are showcased reflect that as well as the involvement with our youth at the native school that’s here on the reserve as well as having some film excerpts of elders that have passed on but that are speaking in our language,” she said.
The exhibition opens Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. and includes a variety of art styles, traditional and contemporary, created by students, alumni, faculty and invited guests. Also opening that evening is an exhibit titled Toussowasket created by one of the earliest professional visual artists from the Okanagan Nation, Noll C. Derriksan. Born in Kelowna, the Colville Okanagan artist drew on inspiration from childhood teachings and created a body of artwork in multiple disciplines including graphics, paintings, pottery and silver. His work centres around archetypal characters and native species including tadpoles, skunks, frogs, porcupines and geese.
Artists from En’owkin and Derriksan are holding an artists’ talk on Jan. 27 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The opening and the artist talk are both open to the public.
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