Freedom of Movement

Beaded Bandolier Bag By Martha Berry

Materials: Glass seed beads on wool stroud, cotton, silk ribbon, wool yarn. To the extent possible, all materials are period authentic to ca. 1820.

Size: Approx. 36" H x 14" W x 1" D

Completion: October 2011

This piece is part of the Gilcrease Museum Collection in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The museum is temporarily closed for construction.

It is important to remember that we Cherokees have not always known freedom of movement in our dances. There were times, in the 19th and 20th centuries, when our ceremonies, dances, medicine and lore were very much discouraged. This bag, with simple but significant adornment, is made to honor those who kept our fires burning. They worked in secret and seclusion, but they kept the dances alive. For that we are very grateful.

This bandolier bag is a departure from the norm for me. It is, on purpose, much less ornate and flashy than most of the bandolier bags I have made in the past decade. It is all about Cherokee ceremonial dance.

The strap is made like a dance sash. Unlike bandolier bag straps, which have different motifs on each side, dance sashes repeat the same motif(s) from one end to the other. Also, the particular motif on this strap is one seen on almost all pre-Removal Cherokee and southeastern sashes. It is a design that goes all the way back to pre-contact Mound Builder pottery and evolved down into 19th century beaded sashes. So, we know it is an important motif for all of the peoples of the southeast.

The flap motif is one of the many variations of a sun circle also found in pre-contact pottery. I used it to represent the sacred fire around which Cherokees dance.

The techniques used in Freedom of Movement are authentic to pre-Removal Cherokee sashes. One in particular, the two-bead-flat stitch is only found on beadwork of the southeastern tribes. It is also only found on sashes. I borrowed it, just this once, for this bandolier bag that is dedicated to the dance and to the dancers.