Community News Header
Articles Tab Left Column

Official Baha'i Websites
Articles tab

December 10, 2021

Coat of Unity - an artistic collaboration
By Nathalie Thirlwall

This year is the centennial of the passing of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, the head of the Baháʼí Faith (1892-1921). To mark this year, Louise Profeit-Leblanc, an Indigenous friend, came up with the idea of creating a coat (an ‘abá) here in Centretown.

It would be embellished by an Indigenous style of beaded flowers to honour his teaching and declare, “We are all flowers of one garden.”

A call went out to many friends requesting small beaded flowers to decorate this special coat. When I was asked to sew the coat, we discussed what type of fabric would be suitable. A sturdy-weight linen in a mixed natural colour was selected because of its similarity to what ʻAbdu’l-Bahá had worn. It would be durable and able to keep its shape with all the flowers that would embellish it. I cut and sewed it as close as possible to the style of what he wore.

Some 50 floral-beaded creations arrived, demonstrating exquisite workmanship in a wide range of colours, shapes and designs. Each was done with attention to detail and appreciation of this artwork, as well as expressing their love for ʻAbdu’l-Bahá.

The beaded works were sewn onto cloth, felt, or leather. The work was pains taking, arduous on hands and eyes, and required many hours of labour. The beading on each piece was so tightly placed together that one friend thought the flowers were embroidered rather than beaded, a testament to the artistry and workmanship.

One elderly contributor had a medical condition that affected her hands. Despite this challenge, she completed her lovely flower, which was placed in a prominent position on the robe. It was the first to be received and inspired others to participate. She said it would be the last beading that she would do in her lifetime.

The placement of the flowers was in keeping with an Indigenous, yet universal, all-embracing and dignified style. Not all the flowers found their way onto the coat. The remaining flowers will be displayed on a linen table runner with the garment.

Forty-three of the flowers were painstakingly hand appliquéd by Louise and me over a period of two full days, outside in my garden in Centretown during some of the hottest days of summer. Louise and another Indigenous collaborator, Shirley Hunter, then beaded the edging of the coat. The coat formed part of an Indigenous art exhibition‒Chaga-Nolosan‒at Green Acre-Bahá’i Center of Learning in Elliot, Maine. This Coat of Unity was motivated by love and brought together the work and artistry of many collaborators.

Home     Contact   Site Map    Web Support

© The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Ottawa, Canada