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Seminole patchwork to color radio show with fashion, culture

NPR Patchwork
Jacki Lyden, right, records audio July 25 while backstage during the Princess Pageant in Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD — Longtime National Public Radio (NPR) host and reporter Jacki Lyden recently visited the Hollywood Reservation to research Seminole patchwork for an upcoming series of radio broadcasts and podcasts about fashion as culture.

“These people had to become invisible to survive the Seminole Wars,” Lyden said. “But in the 20th century, they had to become visible to survive in the tourism industry.”

“Seminole People of the Cloth: A Patchwork History” will explore the history and impact modern patchwork has on today’s culture. Lyden believes the full story of patchwork hasn’t reached beyond Florida and the national broadcasts will help bring awareness to contemporary patchwork.

The reports will begin broadcasting in October on NPR, which has more than 900 member stations nationwide and 34 million listeners per week. The series is being produced by Lyden’s independent nonprofit radio production company called The Seams, which focuses on the anthropology, culture, politics and business of fashion. Its motto is “Clothing is our common thread: In every stitch, a story.”

“Food, clothing and shelter are part of the basic equation of life,” Lyden said. “Clothing is right there. It is a way of looking at the world through the eyes of what we have on our backs.”

Princess Pageant Committee Chairwoman Wanda Bowers met Lyden at the Brighton Field Day Festival in February. Bowers and artist Jessica Osceola helped Lyden win a grant from the Florida Humanities Council by writing letters of recommendation for the project.

“I base my work on the balancing of traditional and contemporary to show a hybrid perspective. I have a toe in each world, which is a benefit to a well-rounded point of view. I appreciate both points of view, and I am positive this collaboration can offer an engaging and dynamic perspective. I have many stories to tell from ceremony to childhood to the sounds of my grandmother’s old Singer sewing machine. The smells of ceremonial smoke, rising of the full moon and the visions of young and old fully adorned in the latest trends in patchwork and beads,” Osceola wrote.

During a close-up look at the Princess Pageant in July, Lyden and senior producer Elaine Heinzman were impressed by the details, designs and colors of the patchwork on stage. Bowers said they also spent time backstage with the contestants.

“It was dazzling,” Heinzman said. “I couldn’t take my eyes off the patchwork.”

Lyden admired the commitments made by contestants’ families to provide the many outfits worn during the competition.

Prior to the pageant, Lyden toured the Hollywood Culture Department and interviewed women sewing patchwork.

“Anytime we can highlight our patchwork is awesome,” Bowers said. “She talked directly to the seamstresses. It’s a different story when you talk to the ones that made it because they love to talk about their patchwork.”

Lyden also interviewed youth and men who wear patchwork.

“I was pleasantly surprised to learn how vibrant [culture] is among those who wear and make patchwork,” she said. “It is reviving and flourishing.”

The series will delve into four areas about patchwork: pageantry and special tribal occasions; men’s patchwork; modernity, interpretation and appropriation; and collectors.

For more information about “Seminole People of the Cloth: A Patchwork History,” visit www.TheSeams.org.

 

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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