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Cree artist beads mask in Saskatoon amid coronavirus pandemic

Cree artist beads mask in Saskatoon amid coronavirus pandemic
WATCH: A Cree artist in Saskatoon has beaded a mask inspired by the South Saskatchewan River amid the pandemic.

Vanessa Hyggen learned beading by watching her grandmother.

Stuck at home in Saskatoon since March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Cree artist decided to channel her creative side when making a mask.

She said the design was inspired by the South Saskatchewan River.

“We rely on it,” she explained.

“Trade used the river, trade brought the beads here. That kind of changed the way the Indigenous artists made work so I wanted to pay homage to the river.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Less boat traffic is good news for Canada’s marine life

She said the mask is for fashion, not function.

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It features the sun on one side and the moon on the other, with two sides of nature meeting with the river in the middle.

“I really was inspired by all the stories (about how) planes were grounded and people could hear birds and the Earth was getting a chance to breathe because we had to stay home,” she said.

While making the mask, Hyggen said she kept thinking back to a promise made by the commissioner of Treaty 6: “As long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows.”

She says it speaks to the everlasting nature of the treaty, and that the land will still be here — even if people aren’t.

“I just want people to really think about the land that they’re living on,” Hyggen said.

“I want them to think about treating the land right and having good relationships with people.”

Hyggen says she’s designing two more masks partially inspired by her home community in Sucker River by incorporating plants in the area, such as blueberries, into her art.

Read more: High levels of South Saskatchewan River raises safety concerns

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Hyggen says she’s seen many beaders like her creating similar artwork online.

She says there’s a community of indigenous artists channelling their work into designing masks and staying connected with their communities through art.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.