Mentors – Curator’s Choice Summer 2023blog
For generations, mentoring has been the cornerstone of a thriving First Nations arts community. This summer, we’re highlighting the traditional practices of apprenticeship amongst the artists that continue today.
Born in 1974, Moy grew up immersed in his culture and the traditions of the Ahousaht First Nations band.
After more than a decade of mastering the principles and techniques of carving, Moy began his own apprenticeship with world-renowned Nuu-chah-nulth artist Art Thompson.
While working with Art, Moy deepened his understanding of the Nuu-chah-nulth design structure, refining his skills. Art shared his vast knowledge of totem pole carving, traditional bentwood box construction, and articulated mask structure and assembly. The lessons of his mentor and friend have had a distinguished influence on Moy’s artworks today.
Until his tenure with Art Thompson, Moy pursued a degree in anthropology, focusing on the traditional aspects of First Nations’ culture. For Moy, art and anthropology are intrinsically connected to one another. They encapsulate a journey that, for him, is a path of understanding and appreciating the connection between the natural world and the culturally significant expression of it in artistic form.
“For me, the meaning of life is to learn of and understand my cultural surroundings so that this knowledge can be preserved and used in everyday life. Like our elders before us passed this knowledge on, so must we to our descendants. In this manner, respect becomes an integral part of life, respect for everything. I draw my knowledge and inspiration from the teachings of those whom I respect, and I incorporate these into everything I do. “
Moy’s traditional name Chiotun perfectly embodies this spirit of mentorship, meaning “someone who helps.” He carries this sentiment into his journey as a teacher and mentor.
One of Moy’s mentees is the accomplished artist Guy Louie Jr.
Guy was born in Victoria, BC, in 1980. He is an artist and performer from the Ahousaht clan of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation.
He began to engage with his heritage extensively in his early teens. Growing up in Victoria limited his first-hand experience with Nuu-chah-nulth culture, so Guy initially garnered his knowledge from the various audio recordings of his great-grandfather, Peter Webster.
Today, Guy continues his great-grandfather’s efforts to preserve the songs and music by performing them for his community. He leads The Ahousat Drummers, a family-run drum group that had grown to include many urban Nuu-chah-nulth peoples.
Under the tutelage of Moy Sutherland, Guy has recently begun dabbling in visual arts as well, creating traditional carvings in the Nuu-chah-nulth style.
Moy’s other impressive, up-and-coming student is Dawson Matilpi.
Born in 1999 in Victoria, British Columbia, Dawson has both Kwakwaka’wakw and upper Nicola ancestry. His grandfather was the Kwakwaka’wakw Master Carver, Ozzie Matilpi.
He first started carving with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC), which was seeking young Indigenous carvers to assist with carving a totem pole. The pole was raised in front of VNFC in March 2016.
Dawson quickly picked up Northwest carving and has enjoyed developing his own style as an apprentice to master carver Moy Sutherland.
Inside each artist’s brilliant and personal expression lies the invisible strings that connect them to a long and sacred legacy of teachings. These remnants can be felt through the stories etched into the remarkable and profound carvings of Moy Sutherland, Guy Louie Jr., and Dawson Matilpi.
At Coastal Peoples Gallery, we’re encouraged and thrilled to see how this legacy of mentorship continues to grow and inspire future generations of Indigenous artists across Canada.