A Mi’kmaw man from Eskasoni, N.S., who specializes in making tiny Mi’kmaq baskets has been invited to take part in a world festival in France to share his unique artistry.
“I’ll be representing the Mi’kmaw Nation in Atlantic Canada while I’m there for basketry,” Francis, 48, said.
Francis said he and his wife, Isabel, who also makes Mi’kmaw baskets, will be part of a delegation of other artists from Atlantic Canada travelling to Gannat, France to take part in the 43rd annual Festival de Gannat – Les Cultures du Monde. The couple leave for France on July 19 to take part in the ten-day festival.
“I feel very honoured and really excited,” Francis said. “I never thought that making baskets would really bring me to France,” he said.
Francis has been making traditional Mi’kmaw baskets since he was a child. He learned how to make them from watching and observing his grandmother, mother and father make baskets.
However, he decided to take his craft a step further and began to create tiny baskets.
“Anybody can make a big basket,” Francis said. “It’s a real challenge to make a small basket, especially the size I make,” he said.
“I can even make a basket so small, it’s one-quarter the size of a dime,” Francis said.
The Eskasoni resident has created other tiny objects using the same technique such as fish and miniature tea sets. He uses thin wood strips from black ash trees in Mariah, Que., to create his artwork.
Francis said his tiny creations have been in high demand ever since he started making them and posting photos of them on his Facebook profile page.
“Mostly I find it’s women who use (them) as jewellery like earrings and pendants,” he said.
“Real serious collectors buy the tea sets because nobody else makes them,” he added.
Since being invited to represent Atlantic Canada at the world festival in France, Francis and his wife have been fundraising to pay for their airfare, hotel and meals while they are in Gannat.
The couple received some financial assistance from Heritage Nova Scotia and the Eskasoni Band Council. They also sold tickets on a large basket hamper during the Eskasoni Powwow July 1-3 as a way to raise money.
When they arrive in Gannat, France on July 20, the couple will be leading classes and demonstrations in Mi’kmaw basket-making and explaining Mi’kmaw culture. They’ll also be participating in different seminars, concerts and classes.
“We’re going to be like, goodwill ambassadors on behalf of Atlantic Canada and the Mi’kmaq,” Francis said.
“I’m so proud and honoured and I’m really excited to pass on my knowledge of baskets and history and I just want to share it with anybody.”