The Kananesgi Basket and Carving Festival Celebrates Cherokee Artists | Cherokee, NC

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The Kananesgi Basket and Carving Festival Celebrates Cherokee Artists

The Kananesgi Basket and Carving Festival will celebrate the basket makers, carvers, instrument makers, and weaponry artists of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), on Saturday, November 9th, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds. Visitors can meet close to 30 different artists, learn the history of Cherokee baskets, and discover the intricacies of a variety of Cherokee art forms. A marketplace will feature art from participating artists and one-of-a-kind pieces will be available to purchase and take home. Admission is free to the public.

Historically, Cherokees made baskets that were beautiful as well as functional. Some baskets were made to gather and store crops such as corn and beans, and others were made for fishermen to transport and store fish inside. Cherokee basketmakers turned to nature for their materials, making splits (the thin strips for weaving) from white oak and river cane, and using bloodroot and walnut for dyes. At the Kananesgi Basket and Carving Festival, you’ll discover these ancient practices, which have been passed down from generation to generation, are still alive today.

Festival Highlights

During the festival, visitors will have the opportunity to see artists including Waylon Long demonstrate how splits are dyed using natural plants and roots. Children can create “make and take” paper mats using simple weaving techniques. Dr. Adam D. Griffith, Assistant Project Director of the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR) will also be on hand, sharing the organization's work specific to white oak basketry materials. RTCAR works to teach, protect, and promote traditional Cherokee art, while preserving resouces for future generations. Throughout the day, the Cherokee Friends will also present storytelling and flute music, an atlatl and blowgun demonstration, and present a Cherokee social dance open to all who would like to join. 

Esteemed Artists

Among the participating artists at the festival, master crafters Louise and Butch Goings will be in attendance. Butch (pictured below) is a wood and stone carver and Louise is a basketmaker from a very distinguished family of basketmakers. Their son, Ed, will also be there showing his skills as a basketmaker and carver.

Louise (pictured above) grew up in Cherokee as one of eight children. She learned how to make baskets when she was only ten years old by watching her mother. Like her mother and the generations before her, Louise starts by gathering her own materials, including white oak, which she forms into splits, and plant roots, which she uses to create different dyes. As Louise’s mother told her, this is what a basket maker does. A “basket weaver” uses materials from someone else, but a “basket maker” does everything from the beginning to the end.

Other esteemed artists you can encounter at the Kananesgi Basket Festival include Gabriel Crowe, Lori Reed, James R. Wolfe Jr., Betty Maney, Maidena Welch Wildcatt, Ramona Lossie, and Eva Reed, among others.

Growing the Cherokee Arts Economy

Tonya Carroll, who co-organized the festival, said she’s excited by having all the participating artists in one room, sharing their work and ideas with one another and the festival goers.

The Kananesgi Basket Festival is the third and final Kananesgi art festival produced this year by Tonya and Tara McCoy from the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute and Hope Huskey from the Sequoyah Fund. These events, all free and open to the public, were made possible by a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, to help build the market for Cherokee artists, and grow the Cherokee arts economy.

To help fund future Kananesgi art events, T-shirts and aprons will be available for purchase at the Kananesgi Basket Festival, as well as ribbon featuring the 7 Clans, from the Kanaesgi Fashion Show. The North American Indian Women’s Association (NAIWA) will also be on hand selling their delicious signature plates of Cherokee food.

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc.

After shopping at the Kananesgi Basket Festival, be sure to pop into Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., to see even more Cherokee art, made by over 300 artist members. Founded in 1946, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. is the oldest Native American Arts cooperative in the United States, with a mission to preserve and advance Cherokee arts and crafts. Only the most talented traditional and fine artists are represented at Qualla, through a juried process. In the back of the store, a permanent gallery collection displays Cherokee baskets, wood carvings, and pottery from across the decades. Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. is open year round.

Kananesgi Basket and Carving Festival Event Schedule

10:00 a.m. - Welcome

All day - Children’s make and take paper mat

All day - Basket split dye demonstration

11:00 a.m. - Revitalizating Traditional Cherokee Basket Materials, presented by Dr. Adam Griffith

12 p.m. Break for lunch (bring cash for a NAIWA meal)

1:00 p.m. - Cherokee Friends atlatl demonstration 

1:30 p.m. - Cherokee Friends, storytelling / flute music

2 p.m. - Cheorkee Friends blowgun demonstration 

2:30 p.m. - Cherokee Friends, storytelling / flute music

3:30 p.m. - Cherokee Friends, social dance performance

4:00 p.m. - Closing 


Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds

545 Tsali Blvd.

Cherokee, NC 28719


Tonya Carroll: 828.359.5545

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