Indigenous footwear shown up close and in context

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'Beauty, Identity, Pride: North American Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum'

TORONTO - The extraordinary beauty and fascinating diversity of the footwear of indigenous peoples throughout North America are the focus of the Bata Shoe Museum's upcoming exhibition, ''Beauty, Identity, Pride: North American Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum.'' The exhibition will open Oct. 24.

More than 90 pairs of shoes, boots and moccasins will showcase the designs, meticulous methods of creation, and beautiful patterns of decoration of aboriginal peoples of the Subarctic, Northeast, Southeast, the Plains, the Great Basin and the Southwest regions of North America. The exhibition will feature a vast array of 19th century moccasins, with several items from the 18th century as well as some 20th century examples.

The exquisite craftsmanship and intricacy of these functional works of art are manifest in sophisticated beading and quillwork, the use of decorative metals, different hides, ribbons and other materials, and regional variations in structural design. Visitors will see up close the techniques and artistry which exemplify the outstanding quality and detail of Native footwear.

''Beauty, Identity, Pride'' will feature many remarkable pieces, including the following highlights:

"A pair of Arapaho women's knee-high boots with fine beadwork, pigmentation, German silver buttons and fringe.

"Traditionally, a Zuni bridegroom was responsible for making the wedding boots to be worn by his bride, and the exhibition includes a pair of these boots created of white deerskin, with pre-formed soles that had to be sewn to the one-piece uppers using stitches not visible to the eye without turning the boots inside out: a true test of skill and devotion.

The exhibit will also feature an innovative interactive component which will allow visitors to discover more about the culture, location, context and methods of creation of each pair of footwear. It will also address the questions of what, where and who these pieces represent. The exhibition and accompanying interpretive material are designed to inform and educate visitors about the beauty and craftsmanship of Native footwear, as a significant form of cultural expression.

A personal passion of Mrs. Sonja Bata, the Bata Shoe Museum's moccasin collection has been built up over 30 years and is now one of the largest in the world. ''Beauty, Identity, Pride'' will allow visitors to view these rarely seen treasures from the Museum's extensive collection.

The Bata Shoe Museum is located in downtown Toronto at the southwest corner of Bloor and St. George Streets. For more information, visit www.batashoemuseum.ca.