Christian White was born on July 17, 1962 in Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii, B.C., and grew up in Masset. Christian’s predominant crests are Grizzly Bear, Dogfish, Raven Double-finned Killerwhale and Moon. Christian’s father, Morris White Chief Edenshaw was instrumental in teaching him the art of argillite carving at the age of fourteen. Christian belongs to a family of practicing artists and cultural preservers, his two brothers carve, his three sisters weaver cedar bark baskets and hats for cultural use, and his wife, Candice, is involved with elders and youths with regards to the preservation of language. In the past decade Morris and Christian White have been acknowledged as being large forces behind the revival of the art of canoe building and totem pole carving in Old Masset.
Carving since 1976, Christian’s mediums were wood, and whalebone, and has since successfully progressed to argillite. In more recent years argillite has become his primary medium, wood is a close second, often used specifically for cultural or ceremonial pieces. Christian had studied his cousins who had been carving in the late 60’s and who were, at that time, developing their own modern style. After researching the artwork of the 19th century Master’s along with the works of his cousin’s, Christian developed a personal style based on a narrative depiction of a specific moment within a myth or a story.
Christian hopes to influence the next generation of Haida artists, and has generally three apprentices on an ongoing basis. Several young people have come together in his community of Old Masset to form a traditional Haida song and dance group, “The Old Masset Dancers”. Christian believes performing the dances and singing the songs is a vital part of his culture and it makes him feel more complete as a person spiritually and physically.
2007 British Columbia Creative Achievement Award for First Nations' Art
Price upon request
Argillite, Catlanite, Duugust stone, Abalone shell, Mother of Pearl, Mastodon Ivory
Christian White’s monumental tribute to this ancient Haida legend is exquisitely carved and detailed with embellishments of precious Abalone, Mother of Pearl and Mastodon Ivory.
Tang’waan’laanaa featured significantly in the old Haida stories. He is Chief of the undersea world, the highest deity of the Haida ocean spirits, a figure of power and prestige. Also known as ‘the One in the Sea’, he resides in the depths of the ocean floor. It is said that Tang’waan’laanaa is responsible for supporting the world because he controls the flow of wealth that comes into the world. He is also grandfather to Raven.
Tang’waan’laanaa is commonly portrayed holding a three-pronged spear to represent driftwood or a deadhead, the seafarer’s obstacles. Here Christian White has fashioned his so that it is reminiscent of Neptune’s trident, perhaps drawing an analogy to the Western version of the God of the Sea.
Bronze Cast, Marble base
Edition of 12
9.5 x 8 x 5″
Volcano Woman is perhaps one of the oldest and most revered legends which tells of a mortal”s fate if he/she does not treat sacred objects or creatures with respect. In defense of her beloved wild creatures, she controls the powerful volcanoes. Stories tell of how the killing of a frog leads the Volcano woman to destroy an entire village.
Volcano Woman is a supernatural, powerful person in First Nations mythology. She had a son who, like his mother, had supernatural abilities. He often liked to change from his Human form to that of a Frog (Wukus).
Years ago, a Prince and his two friends went fishing. Hungry, they lay their food on leaves. The Wukus (Frog), being mischievous, jumped on their food. Twice the young Prince threw the Frog into the shrubs but on the third time they threw the frog into the fire and killed the innocent creature.
A few nights later, a woman could be heard crying and wailing. “Who has done this, come forward and I will spare your village.” This warning went unheeded for some time until finally a Woman of the Elders went to the village outskirts to see her. Volcano Woman instructed the Woman of the Elders to send forth the three young men and she would spare the village from volcanic destruction. The Woman of the Elders begging for the sake of the Village told of Volcano Woman”s ultimatum – but this warning went unheeded.
On the final night of the village’s existence, Volcano Woman was heard saying, “I asked for those responsible to take heed and now you will know my vengeance.” The Village shook, a Volcano erupted, destroying the village and all who lived there.
Price upon request
Argillite, Abalone shell, Mother of Pearl, Catlanite
This ornately detailed panel pipe inlayed with catlanite, abalone shell and mother of pearl tells the ancient story of Nanasimgit.
The man or Nanasimgit is depicted at the bottom of the pipe holding skils to represent his stature. It shows the numerous potlatches he has held. The following story is a shortened version as told by the artist, Christian White:
One day, the man’s wife was washing sea otter skins near the ocean, when a Killerwhale arose from the surface. It coaxed her into the water and carried her seaward while her husband watched in disbelief. Without hesitation, he quickly decided to follow them until the Killerwhale dove near a two-headed kelp, which prevented him from going any further. He was feeling quite distraught as he returned back to the village but by then he had decided to seek the help of his uncle, the Frog.
The Frog offered him advice on how he could get his wife back and suggested that he take specific objects with him for his journey. He brought spruce root twine, a gimlet and medicine, placing them in his canoe. But, before he embarked on his journey, he was urged to undergo a fast in order to cleanse his body, which involved various rituals.
Once the fast was completed, the man embarked on his quest until he came across the kelp he had encountered before. He tied his canoe to the kelp along with his possessions and climbed down beneath the surface to find himself in another world. He followed a path where he encountered three blind women that resembled Geese. He used his medicine to cure two of the women while the third one chose not to accept the medicine. The cured women vowed to repay him for his deed. As he proceeded onward, the man came across two slaves, from the Killerwhale clan, chopping wood. As they proceeded to chop the wood, the head of their axe fell off and they began to cry knowing the consequences they would face from the Chief. The man stopped to assist them and in return they directed him to his wife’s dwelling. The slaves warned the man of the watchmen pole that stood in front of the longhouse protecting the inhabitants. The watchmen had the ability to scent out and watch out for intruders.
While he proceeded further on his path and thought about how to divert the watchmen, the man encountered a Heron repairing a canoe without success. The man stopped to offer him his gimlet to successfully repair the canoe. In return for his generosity, the Heron helped conceal the man under his wing blanket from the Black Whale guards and the watchmen. He successfully entered the longhouse to happily find his wife. At this point, the watchmen discovered the man taking his wife back with him, but were unable to stop him.
When the man arrived back with his wife to his village he felt a different connection with her, as though she was not herself. At night, he would keep her in a bentwood box, but one morning when he awoke, to his surprise she escaped. She left to be with her Killerwhale family and fully transformed into a Killerwhale. This was the last he saw of her.