Fogo Island 2018

Island living is by necessity a practice of use and reuse, of diverting materials that have exceeded their primary purpose towards new ends. The inhabitants of Fogo Island, Newfoundland, are no exception to this rule, and have a boundless capacity for adaptation and reinvention.

One of Canada’s oldest settlements, this rugged, windswept island in the North Atlantic is home to approximately 2,500 inhabitants. For 500 years, the island’s economy was sustained by the cod fishery, until 1992, when the widespread depletion of fish stocks and a moratorium on the fishery brought an end to this way of life. Facing challenges that affect many remote communities around the world, Fogo Islanders have sought to diversify their economy and find new ways to sustain their heritage.

Islands are also shaped by currents of exchange. The triangular trade routes of the 16th to 19th centuries established connections between Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and America. Along the journey, Fogo Island salt cod was traded for sugar, molasses and rum, once-exotic materials that became intertwined with local traditions to shape a culture that is uniquely its own.

From local resources to foreign imports, matter, in the hands of Fogo Islanders has thus always been subject to transformation. Current design practices on Fogo Island have their roots in a tradition of pragmatism: making what was required with what was at hand, from quilts, hooked rugs and knitwear to wooden boats, furniture and tools.

Yet through the sustained labour of quilting and weaving, of carving local birch and forging metal, comes an experimentation with form, colour and purpose that exceeds an object’s functional origins. Embodying traditional knowledge, these works reach back while looking forward. Contemporary pieces made on Fogo Island convey a joyful invention within vernacular forms, serving as a testament to the ingenuity, resilience and creativity of their makers.

Correspondent: Alexandra McIntosh

Claudia Brahms |
Marc Fiset |
Reiko Igarashi for Fogo Island Shop |
Linda Osmond |



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