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Arts and Entertainment

A powerful qaspeq that gives voice to the missing

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: October 27, 2018
  • Published October 18, 2018

Artist Amber Webb, right, of Dillingham handmade a Yup'ik qaspeq in honor of missing and murdered Alaska Native women and had it on display in the Dena'ina Center on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The qaspeqs worn by Alaska Natives are uniquely beautiful — hooded, flowery blouses with patterns often reminiscent of berry-filled tundra.

But one qaspeq outside the AFN convention hall was particularly powerful.

Big enough for a giant to wear, displayed on a wooden frame with its arms outstretched, its pattern was not flowers, but faces of missing and murdered Alaska Native women.

The 47 life-sized faces, in black-and-white, seemed hauntingly real, as if the people were alive today.

Amber Webb, a Yup’ik woman, created the garment - qaspeq in Yup’ik, also known as a kuspuk - and stood before it Thursday, as onlookers bombarded her with questions and praise.

"These are people that have been taken from us," she said. "This is to physically represent the grief our communities have."

Barbara Franks, chair of the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, stood before the display in awe.

Remembering these people is important to help the living heal from the trauma that occurs when people go missing or loved ones are killed, Franks said.

“This brings a voice to all the women on there, that their death is not in vain,” Franks said.