FABRIC OF OUR LIVES: Madras Design Unveiled At Dorsch Cultural Center
FREDERIKSTED — It’s official. The U.S. Virgin Islands has a state fabric … although we’re officially still a territory.
After years of development, the madras fabric design was finally unveiled at a ceremony at the Frederick Dorsch Cultural Center in Frederiksted on Saturday morning.
It took a legislative act to decree the pattern and, finally, the actual woven cotton fabric representing Virgin Islands love and pride. And agreeing on the colors and who would produce the design was debated in the Senate.
But the culmination of the idea of a state fabric came to fruition for all the people assembled at the waterfront Dorsch Center as the positive energy of the USVI was harnessed in the unveiling ceremony on Saturday.
Donkey years ago, Bradley Christian, president of the St. Croix Heritage Dancers, the cultural dance group of the Virgin Islands, was talking with Mary Dema of the Christiansted Community Alliance about other Caribbean islands having their own madras fabric and he spoke about his idea of a Virgin Islands madras fabric.
It was at one of the Limpricht Park events and textile designer Debbie Sun was vending. The three got together and met many times over a period of three years. They applied for and received a grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts (VICA) to produce the Virgin Islands madras fabric.
Senator Myron Jackson, whose personal history includes lifelong efforts to preserve local history, proposed the bill to the Senate Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Aging. There were discussions, sharing of Virgin Islands history, historical references, and support from community members on all three islands and the assistance of Vivian Ebbesen Fludd of Ebbe’s fabric store in Christiansted.
The Senate approved the measure Dec. 30, 2020, and Governor Albert Bryan signed it into law as Act 8424 on January 21.
Saturday in Frederiksted, VICA Director Tasida H. Kelch welcomed the audience. Bradley Christian thanked the many who were responsible for keeping his dream alive while he was alive.
Senator Kurt Vialet, Mae Louise Williams and St. Croix Administrator Sammuel Sanes each spoke on behalf of Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, and Bryan.
DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol read Act 8424. Fludd, of Ebbe’s Fabric store, gave the audience a history of the madras fabric. VICA Chairman Jose Raul Carillo spoke about the council and encouraged the community to apply to the council for the upcoming grant period.
The colors of the V.I. madras represent the U.S. Virgin Islands: Turquoise for the Caribbean Sea that embodies the natural beauty of the islands; Blue for the deep seas that allowed ease of transport and made the deep harbors of St. Thomas; Pink for the color of the conch shell, a symbol of the call to freedom; Yellow for the Ginger Thomas, the national flower of the Virgin Islands; Green for the vast fields of natural resources, White in acknowledgement of the original attire of the Virgin Islanders who wore the fabric of the white flour sacks; and Red representing love and strength and appears in all the flags that have flown across the Virgin Islands.
The official V.I. madras is or soon will be available at the following locations:
St. Thomas: The Fabric Store, L & C Milliner, Fabric in Motion.
St. Croix: Divi Divi Fabrics, Ebbe’s Fabric Store, Clara’s Special Occasions