Cherish Parrish’s The Next Generation–Carriers of Culture

Meet the Artists of Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists

A woven basket in the shape of a female figure.

Cherish Parrish (Ottawa/Pottawatomi), The Next Generation—Carriers of Culture, 2018, black ash and sweetgrass, Courtesy of Cherish Parrish – Odawa & Pottawatomi – Gun Lake Band. Photo by Richard Church, Odawa-Pottawatomi. © Cherish Parrish

Artist’s Language

Cherish Parrish inendaan booch igo gikinoo’amaagowaad weshki-bimaadizijig wii agogobinaaganikewaad mii dash aawechigaadeg aanjigowin gaye gashiwewin. Owii aanikoobijigewag - niigaan-izhiwidoowaad inakaaneziwin-ing, Parrish o’gii apikaan agogobinaagan ezhi naagwag aanjikweyan ge ganage niizhwaaswi daso-giizis oniijaanisinid dash izhi-chipiitendaagwag bagwaji-inaadiziwinan gaye izhitwaawinan. Giizhenindaagwadoon niizho-biitawinagek gaye naawitig moozhaginigaadeg Wiisagaakoog, o’ow gaa apikaadeg ge giiwitaapikang onadinigan gaye wiingashk biminapikang. Parrish ikido gishpin Anishinaabe-ikwewiyan, gibimiwidoon inakaaneziwin.

English

For Cherish Parrish, weaving is “a generational gift that needs to be passed on and . . . nothing . . . speaks to that quite like pregnancy and motherhood.” In The Next Generation–Carriers of Culture, Parrish combines the ideas of passing on traditional practices with honoring the legacy of Indigenous women by weaving a basket into the shape of a pregnant woman in her third trimester. Created from spring wood and heartwood harvested from black ash trees, this piece was woven around a handmade mold and rimmed with sweetgrass. “Being a carrier of culture,” Parrish says, “that’s what you are as a Native woman.”

Audio

[Speaking Native Language] Cherish Parrish. Southwest Michigan.

My piece is called "Anishinabe Kwei" [The Next Generation – Carriers of Culture] and it’s a basket in the shape of a pregnant woman. The inspiration for that came from just seeing an old sculpture on a wall. It was of a pregnant woman. I think it was maybe African of origin, and it got me thinking about the old Greek sculptures. No matter how ambiguous they may seem, you can still tell that they were a person, because over the years the arms have fallen off or the legs or something, but you still have that shape of a human.

Not much has changed over the generations. We’ve made a few tweaks and stuff, but we still weave and harvest in very much the exact same ways as we always have. For us, our materials are still an ax, we’ve upgraded to a saw, just to make things a little faster and easier, and scissors. Instead of letting the wood grain dictate how our splint should be, we do have a little bit more control over that, and that is what made my piece possible, specifically.

I was taught to weave free form. I think all of our baskets have always been free form, but molds and the introduction of molds, my mind was blown about how much you can do. I think the biggest challenge for me was creating a mold that I would be able to weave around, but also pull back out of the basket and leave the basket intact. That took a few trial and error processes to really just learn how to rig up saran wrap and tape over a mold and then stuff it with my favorite old clothes, and I won’t be able to wear those again until I finish the basket. So there’s nothing fancy behind the scenes.

I didn’t time how long it took me to weave it, either. I just know that I made it through all 10 seasons of "Frasier" while I was weaving it, so that’s how I tell people how long it took. With "Frasier," I specifically put that on; it’s a favorite comedy of mine. It keeps me positive and happy. I did have that mentality of going into a basket with a positive attitude. The idea that maybe whatever you’re feeling or thinking, you’re weaving into that piece. I really wanted it to be a piece that inspired and made people feel good, and I couldn’t think of a better snarky show than that.

Cherish Parrish, Odawa and Pottawatomi, born 1989
The Next Generation–Carriers of Culture, 2018