Monday, October 19, 2009

Jude Burkhauser & the Walum Olum

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Jude, was an artist and weaver from Cape May.

She fought to get the State of New Jersey to include a percentage of all major building projects be allocated for art - and she got the commission to add the art to the public library in Upper Township in Cape May County.

Jude did three tapestries that now hang on the back wall of the library, weaved images that reflect images from the Walum Olum - or "Red Score," the ancient legend of the Lenni Lenape Indians native to New Jersey.

The pattern of the tapestry Jude is photographed with is one of the legends of the Lenape - how the cranberries got their red color.

As Jude related the story to me, the Indians, who arrived in New Jersey about 12,000 years ago, just as the last of the elephant sized tusked mammoths were killed off, tell the myth of a battle in the mountains among the mammoths and the saber tooth tigers, and in the end they killed each other off, their blood flowed down the mountains and died the cranberries red.

The cranberries provided the Indians with the red die used to draw the pictographs of the Walum Olum on the backs of tree barks.

There were over a hundred pictographs to the Walum Olum, each with a meaning and a story behind it.

Two Indians, Talking Wood and Dancing Bear were entrusted with the sacred Walum Olum, and traveled among the different tribal communities of the Lenni Lenape, including the Wolf Tribe of the North, the Turkey Tribe and the Turtle Tribe, each with its own totum.

While Talking Wood read the story of the symbols of the Walum Olum on the tree bark, Dancing Bear would act out the saga in a dance around a fire.

When Jude went to Europe to research a book she wrote "Glassgow Girls," about the weavers of Scotland, I stayed in her apartment above the pharmacy across the Washington Street Mall from the Ugly Mug.

Before she lived there, Jude stayed in an apartment above the carriage house at the Physick Estate, and ran the Cape May County Art League.

Jude waged a tremendous battle before dying of cancer, leaving behind her legacy of art and her book "Glassgow Girls."

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