Our Friday Night program Coastal Trade Routes honoured the vast community networks that connect our stories up and down the west coast. Through the refinement and mastery of dug-out canoes, coastal people’s cultivated nation to nation relationships that wove bloodlines together generation after generation. This evening we welcomed two powerhouse artists from the northern coastline to share some insight into their work and worldviews.
Nicholas Galanin (Yeil Ya-Tseen) shared a slideshow of his creative art practice: “I am inspired by generations of Tlingit & Unangax creativity and I contribute to this wealthy conversation through active curiosity. There is no room in this exploration for the tired prescriptions of the ‘Indian Art World’ and its institutions. Through creating I assert my freedom.” Nicholas’ work is bold, fearless and critical of the commodification of First Nations culture in the current marketplace. Prepare to be jostled out of your current assumptions about “Native Art”.
Marianne Nicholson (‘Tayagila’ogwa) shared her research on the role carved work plays in ancestral governance systems and the impact European trade relations have on how we ‘value’ the carving arts today. Marianne’s lengthy historic perspective allows us to retrace our steps and better understand how vast collections of ancestral items ended up on the marketplace and into museum display. Marianne’s creative work invites us to reconsider our definition of “art” but also how we think of our relationship to land, waters, and Indigenous resurgence. “My work stems from a strong belief in the value of Indigenous philosophies and ways of being on the land. My practice is an attempt to manifest these philosophies into contemporary spaces and conversations.”
Featured art installation: “for the year of reconcOILation” by Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob:
“The federal government declared 2017, which is Canada’s 150th birthday, The Year of Reconciliation… Many people from coast to coast are excited to celebrate the 150th birthday, of this country, their country, our country. A country that they are proud of, as we stand, moving forward, and holding our values of diversity, and inclusivity. Other people stand in opposition to this celebration, to bring light the historical injustices and governmental policies and politics which have, and continue to, oppress and hurt many lives, throughout generations.”
Nicholas Galanin (Yeil Ya-Tseen): was born in Sitka, Alaska, he has struck an intriguing balance between his origins and the course of his practice. Having trained extensively in ‘traditional’ as well as ‘contemporary’ approaches to art, he pursues them both in parallel paths. His stunning bodies of work simultaneously preserve his culture and explore new perceptual territory. Galanin studied at the London Guildhall University, where he received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts with honors in Jewelry Design and Silversmithing. At Massey University in New Zealand he earned a Master’s degree in Indigenous Visual Arts. Valuing his culture as highly as his individuality, Galanin has created an unusual path for himself. He deftly navigates “the politics of cultural representation”, as he balances both ends of the aesthetic spectrum. With a fiercely independent spirit, Galanin has found the best of both worlds and has given them back to his audience in stunning form.
Marianne Nicholson (‘Tayagila’ogwa): is a multi-disciplinary artist and ancestral scholar of Scottish and Dzawada’enuxw First Nations descent. The Dzwada’enuxw People come from Gwa’yi (Kingcome) River and are a part of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Her training encompasses both traditional Kwakwaka’wakw forms and culture and Western European based art practice. She has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design (1996), a Masters in Fine Arts (1999), a Masters in Linguistics and Anthropology (2005) and a PhD in Linguistics and Anthropology (2013) at the University of Victoria. Almost 10 years ago Marianne pushed her creative voice into the public arena by painting a 40 ft pictograph of a copper shield on the side of a cliff at the mouth of Kingcome Inlet (her home community). She hasn’t held back since, exhibiting her artwork locally, nationally and internationally as a painter, photographer and installation artist. Her practice engages with issues of First Nation’s histories and politics arising from a passionate involvement in cultural revitalization and the active envisioning of long term sustainability for coastal communities.
Hjalmer Wenstob (Tlehpik): Just like my names, my background gives me so much strength, to know where I am from and where I belong, no matter where I go. On my mum’s side I am English and Norwegian, and on my dad’s side I am from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, which is a Nuu-chah-nulth nation from the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I get strength from all of who I am, and where I come from, raised on Tzartus Island, in Barkley Sound, I know I belong, a place that calls my name silently, but unbegrudgingly, it holds my memories and childhood, to give me strength no matter where I live. I have since moved to the city where I am now finishing my Master of Fine Arts in sculpture, at the University of Victoria.