Ask any local about the Carving on the Edge Festival, and you will hear of the expressive narrative of traditional Nuu-chah-nulth carving. You’ll hear about the totem pole raising, and the canoe carving mentorships. The smell of wood shavings and steamed cedar. The glimmer off the blade of an adze. The hum of chatter at the workshops. The festival is a sensory experience.
Following the 2018 festival, the festival society restyled the festival to a biennial gathering. Coming together every two years would allow the carving community to take on larger projects and the festival society to focus efforts on community programming that would carry throughout the year, such as the Tla-o-qui-aht Vision Mural, Carving Club, Mentor-Apprentice programs, and the Nuu-chah-nulth Living Archive.
Then 2020 hit. Everything about in-person gathering changed, and with it, so much of festival season and what people love about it. Some festivals pivoted quickly, offering modified or abbreviated programming that was nimble enough to adapt when news came down from the government regarding travel or gathering restrictions. Other festivals, including Carving on the Edge, took the opportunity to undergo the chrysalis of reinvention. The Carving on the Edge Festival has always been about more than a singular weekend, not merely a moment but a movement towards community-building, cultural celebration and preservation. The artists of this community are both traditional and contemporary, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and their work does not stop. The festival hosts visitors from all over the world, and that audience will only grow as more people can view everything the coastal carving community has to offer.
The stay-at-home orders of the past year have provided an opportune time of reflection and the impetus to restyle the festival. It’s the tenth festival and with that comes anniversary celebrations. In-person gathering is important to the mentorship aspect of the festival but there are more ways to celebrate coastal carving than just a festival weekend. The first stage is the digital festival, coming to you the last weekend of March, the 26th to the 28th.
This year’s festival features the works of Gordon Dick, Kelly Robinson, and more. Joe Martin is mentoring apprentices in stewardship and canoe carving and Hesquiaht elders are hosting a session about language revitalization efforts. There will be self-guided tours and festival resources for those looking to view all the spectacular carving across Nuu-chah-nulth territory, from Tofino to Port Alberni and everything in between.
There will be a new website, where you can learn about past festivals and community projects related to the festival. There are more announcements to come—the tenth festival anniversary is exciting and this year holds hopeful opportunities for the carving community.
We’ll be together in person again. But until then, we can still celebrate coastal carving and this community we are working hard to protect. We hope you’ll join us March 26th-28th for our digital programming and stick with us throughout 2021 for more celebrations.
as seen in Tofino Time