A Cloth Called Witness is an inter-species collaboration that began at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Textile artist Sarit Cantor used the process of natural dyeing with plants gathered from along the shores of the Cobechenonk (the body of water known by settlers as the Humber River) to create a hand-sewn patchwork quilt that took the shape of this river. This patchwork is a collaboration between plants, waters and ancestors. These elements hold immense knowledge about what it means to care for one another, to witness death, birth, transformation, change and what it means to be adaptable in times of rupture. This work is a bow to that knowledge.
This past spring, a group of activists, community organizers, artists, healers, and earth workers were invited into this work. Participants were mailed fabric and instructions on how to dye fabric using plants and rust. These dyed fabrics were then collected and sewn into the shapes of surrounding waterways.
Dyeing with rust and plants is a way to practice life through decomposition. It is a way to transcribe our relationships with plants and with place. It offers authorship to decay and the many complexities of this moment in time. It is time travel and transformation. It is witnessing that which we believed to be solid and unmovable dissolve into something new and something beautiful. Placing our attention and time into building strong relationships with land and slowly, gently listening to the plants that make up this place, is one small way we can honour the treaties here and keep our ancestral promises to be accountable to the lands, waters, humans and more-than-human relationships that hold us.
Creating this quilt was a practice of listening, remembering, and of acknowledging intelligence other than our own. It was an effort of co-creation and collaborative relationship. It was a practice of dispelling the myth of aloneness and honouring the reliable and unwavering intimacy of the places we call home. While the quilt itself is physical proof of this inter-species weaving and dreaming, the true work is ongoing in the luscious, liminal, transformative work of our relationships - with the plants, with the waters, with each other, with the just world we are building together.
The quilt is sewn by textile artist Sarit Cantor, you can see more of their work on Instagram @aclothcalledwitness!