Bok Abaiya

Bok Abiya temporary exhibit highlights work of generations of Choctaw basket weavers

By Christian Toews
September 1, 2023

A new exhibit opened on July 22 at the Choctaw Cultural Center named Bok Abaiya – Practiced Hands and the Art of Basketry. The exhibit features the work of generations of Choctaw basket weavers displayed alongside contemporary Choctaw art. The temporary exhibit will be on display until March 30, 2024.

Claire Green Young is the curator at the Choctaw Cultural Center. She said that she had initially planned to focus on Mississippi Choctaw baskets, which happened to be the largest number of permanent items in the Choctaw Cultural Center’s collection. That idea quickly evolved when she discovered more about the baskets.

“After I began to learn and research and talk to our historic preservation department and various community members, I realized what a unique and interesting story this was. How the art of Choctaw Basketry has been preserved and passed down by and for the Oklahoma Choctaw People as well,” she said.

According to Young, you will still see Mississippi baskets, but most of the 64 baskets in the exhibition are Oklahoma Choctaw-made.

“I’m proud that these aren’t baskets that we just found. They are baskets that community members contributed and allowed us to display. I just feel really grateful that these community members trusted me as a curator,” she said.

The night before the exhibition was opened to the public, Choctaw Cultural Center hosted a private viewing. The contributors, artists, weavers and the families of the basket makers were invited to view the exhibit before it opened to the public.

Young said one of the exhibition’s highlights is Choctaw baskets on loan from the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.

Typically, these baskets are only loaned for a short time. However, the Philbrook Museum of Art has allowed them to stay at the Choctaw Cultural Center for the duration of the Bok Abaiya exhibition.

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