This catalogue was published by Nisga’a Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Finding A Voice: The Art of Norman Tait held at Nisga’a Museum from May 30 to August 29, 2015 and at the West Vancouver Museum from October 14 to December 5, 2015.
Norman Tait (b. 1941) has been devoted to art since childhood. Imbued with a deep connection to his Nisga’a heritage and family, Tait has utilized his artistic gifts and transcended the quotidian to create the extraordinary. Self-taught, this self-critical and highly engaged artist has, over the past five decades, researched and explored his Nation’s rich cultural heritage and forged a voice for himself that speaks through his myriad of sculptural and two dimensional works. This voice is driven by a passion to reinvent traditional narratives within a contemporary context and provide ways in which to connect his ancestral heritage to today’s fast paced and changing world.
Karen Duffek is the Curator of Contemporary Visual Arts & Pacific Northwest at the UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Her research focus lies both in the history of Northwest Coast Aboriginal collectionsâ€•including connecting and documenting historical objects, particularly those made and used during the period of potlatch prohibition, with descendants and originating community membersâ€•and in the relationship of contemporary art to cultural practice. Among her many exhibitions are Projections: The Painted Art of Henry Speck, Udzi’stalis (co-curated with Marcia Crosby, 2012) and a collaboration with artist Peter Morin in Peter Morin’s Museum (2011), both at MOA’s Satellite Gallery; Border Zones: New Art across Cultures (MOA, 2010); Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge (MOA, with tour to the National Gallery of Canada, 2044-2007); and with Tom Hill, the now historical Beyond History (Vancouver Art Gallery, 1989). Her publications include the webzine borderzones.ca (2010) and the books Bill Reid and Beyond: Expanding on Modern Native Art (co-edited with Charlotte Townsent-Gault, 2004), Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge (2004), and the Transforming Image: Painted Arts of Northwest Coast First Nations (co-authored with Bill McLennan, 2000).
Vickie Jensen is a Vancouver-based photographer and author who began photographing Norman Tait’s work in the mid 1980s. She wrote her first book, Where the People Gather: Bringing a Log to Life, (reprinted in paperback as Totem Pole Carving), based on three months of intense collaboration as Tait and his crew carved a 42-foot doorway pole. “We talked, discussed the photos I was taking, shared the meals I cookedâ€•it was a transforming experience in my life. And getting to know Norman’s family was an unexpected bonus. “ Jensen also wrote about this pole in the children’s book Carving a Totem Pole and has featured Tait’s work in a third book, The Totem Poles of Stanley Park, expanded and re-titled in 2015 as Totem Poles and the Lure of Stanley Park. As of 2005 her extensive text and photo documentation of Norman Tait’s career is part of the Jensen-Powell Fonds housed in the Museum of Anthropology Archives.
Darrin Martens is currently the Chief Curator of the Audain Art Museum. Prior to this position he served as the Director of the Nisga’a Museum and Director/curator of Burnaby Art Gallery. Martens has a Master’s degree in Art History from the University of British Columbia with a focus on Critical Curatorial Studies. He is also a fellow of Claremont Graduate University’s J. Paul Getty Foundation’s Museum Leadership Institute. Prior to his studies at UBC he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Regina. Marten’s passion lies in exploring Canadian art history and in particular artists of First Nations heritage. He has curated over 50 exhibitions and contributed to over 30 publications.
Shirley Morven, whose Nisga’a name is Angaye’e, was born in Gitlaxt’aamiks, British Columbia. She is one of the members of the Gitwilnnaak’il’ Wolf clans from that ancient community. She is currently the Chairperson for Nisga’a Lisims Government’s Council of Elders and where she is one of the four national officers. She is also charged with the oversight of Collections and Exhibitions on the Nisga’a Museum Advisory Committee. She has served in several other capacities over her lifetime, always with a focus on formal and traditional Nisga’a practices. She has functioned as District Principal for Nisga’a Language and Culture for School District # 92. In addition she was chairperson for the Nisga’a Valley Health Board for 1 ½ terms just at the turn of the century, and on the New Aiyansh Band Council for two terms prior to the Nisga’a attaining their autonomy.
“This book tells my story behind the [2010 Olympic] medals – the peace symbol, the soul replaced by the hand, ayasu, “stop hey what’s that sign,” my childhood hippyness all groovy with happiness, a journey to far out places doing things I have never done before like co-designing an Olympic Medal.
The story is about community, the random nature of connections, the chance meetings, and the simple idea that we need each other to thrive, much like my community which continually supports me in my random acts of madness, kindness or both.” – Corrine Hunt
“Haida art embodies a way of life, and a way of knowing, unique to our people. Together with the Haida language, it tells our histories, conveys family lineages and privileges, indicates a social standing and reminds us of our relationship with others. It plays an important economic function, is central to ceremony and can be highly political. Art expresses and strengthens our connection to the supernatural and the spiritual. It affirms and honours our inseparable relationship to, and dependency upon, the lands and water of Haida Gwaii. It reminds of our place in this world.
Haida art is also beautiful. This beauty has been attained through artists of the past and present who have become knowledge holders and story tellers, learning the societal structure, histories and protocols of our nation. They know the lands and the waters from which their materials come. They know how art functions in Haida society. They are dedicated to studying the masterpieces of the past and to learn from the masters of today. These artists want to know what makes great art, and they want to make great art”
Haida Gwaii Museum Press 2014
The Whaling People live along the west coast of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery in Washington. They comprise more than 20 First Nations, including the Nuu-chah-nulth (formerly called Nootka), Ditidaht, Pacheedaht and Makah. These socially related peoples enjoyed a highly organized, tradition-based culture for centuries before Europeans arrived. As whaling societies, they had a unique relationship with the sea.
This book celebrates the still-thriving cultures of the Whaling People, who survived the devastating effects of colonial power and influences. It features 12 narratives collected from First Nations elders, each illustrated with original drawings by the celebrated Hesquiaht artist, Tim Paul. The book also includes a history of treaty making in BC, leading up to the recently ratified Maa-nulth Treaty signed by five First Nations of the Whaling People.
Published in 2011 by the Royal BC Museum
Charles Edenshaw is the first survey of this iconic figure in Northwest Coast art, produced in collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery to coincide with a landmark exhibition of Edenshaw’s work. The book brings together the largest number of his works ever assembled and offers a rare opportunity to view his legacy.
Published in 2013
The Tsimshian people of coastal British Columbia use a system of hereditary name-titles in which names are treated as objects of inheritable wealth. Human agency and social status resides in names rather than in the individuals who hold these names, and the politics of succession associated with names and name-taking rituals have been, and continue to be, at the centre of Tsimshian life.
Published in 2008
Presenting the most interesting and exceptional people and places of British Columbia, this photographic exploration offers an insider’s perspective on all the region has to offer. With a foreword by sports icon, philanthropist, and proud resident Steve Nash, this tour is divided into seven thematic chapters, each containing four geographical subchapters. From alluring Vancouver in the lower mainland to tranquil Vancouver Island, home to the historic capital, Victoria, the unique splendor of this remarkable area—including local art galleries, world-class ski resorts, restaurants and shops with international and regional flair, and businesses that give back to the community—is profiled alongside some of British Columbia’s best-kept secrets. Includes 365 color pages
Published in 2010
The Totem Pole reconstructs the intercultural history of the art in its myriad manifestations from the eighteenth century to the present. Aldonis Jonaitis and Aaron Glass analyze the totem pole’s continual transformation since Europeans first arrived on the scene, investigate its various functions in different contexts, and address the significant influence of colonialism on the proliferation and distribution of carved poles. The authors also trace the development of the art form: its spread from the Northwest Coast to world’s fairs and global theme parks; its integration with the history of tourism and its transformation into a signifier of place; the role of governments, museums, and anthropologists in collecting and restoring poles; and the part that these carvings have continously played in First Nations struggles to reclaim control of their cultures and their lands.
Sidebars by scholars and artists, including Robert Davidson, Bill Holm, Richard Hunt, Nathan Jackson, Vickie Jensen, Ki-Ke-In, Andrea Laforet, Susan Point, Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Lyle Wilson, and Robin Wright, add lively discussions of specific carvings and their contexts.
In a stunning resurgence over the past few decades, contemporary First Nations artists of the Northwest Coast have established themselves as among the most dynamic and important artist working in North America. Challenging Traditions honours this success by presenting the work of 40 of the most celebrated living artists, whose achievements reveal an accomplished melding of contemporary vitality with traditional genres. The work of such acknowledged masters as Robert Davidson, Dempsey Bob, Susan Point, Preston Singletary, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Jim Hart, and Richards Hunt, plus many younger artists, is presented in 100 colour photographs of primarily new pieces, amply demonstrating that the historic strengths of Northwest Coast culture are alive, well and continuously evolving.
For more than a century, the state and church actively discouraged First Nations from pursuing their traditional cultures, but they persisted in keeping alive their art and ceremony. With the rise of cultural and political activism, Native art is now flourishing on an unprecedented scale. Many artists are examining the meaning and purpose of First Nations art in the twentieth-century, while following traditions and boldly experimenting with innovative subjects, techniques and materials.
Ian Thom explores these contradictions by describing the career, working methods and philosophy of each artist, all of whom he interviewed especially for this book. He also discusses at least two significant recent artworks by each artist.
Both senior and younger artists from all of the major First Nations on the Northwest Coast are featured, working in a variety of media and styles: groundbreaking abstract painting and metal sculptures, painstakingly woven spruce root hats and ceremonial woollen robes, works in glass, masks, carved panels, painted drums, striking political paintings, “Haida manga,” jewelry, carved argillite works and bentwood boxes.
This book is beautiful, provocative introduction to the best contemporary First Nations art of the Northwest Coast, in the words and works of some of its leading lights.
Published in 2009
This visually sumptuous book features works of historical and comtemporary importance of Nuu Chah Nulth art and culture. It illustrates and documents the travelling exhibition of the same name curated by the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Huupukwanum and Tupaat are Nuu-chah-nulth words that designate everything a chief owns, including valued hereditary names and songs, objects and dances, rights and privileges, lands and resources.
These Nuu-chah-nulth concepts introduce non-aboriginal people to the profound philosophical, spiritual and personal connections that these objects had – and continue to have – with Nuu-chah-nulth communities.
Published in 1999
The totem pole is a distinctive and widely admired form of traditional Northwest Coast Native art. Once nearly lost, this art form is alive and thriving today. In this beautifully photographed book, Vickie Jensen collaborates with Norman Tait, a renouned Nisga’s artist, and his crew of young carvers to document the process of transforming a log into a totem pole.
Throughout the carving process, Tait requires the apprentices to make their own tools, design their regalia and practice traditional drumming, songs and dances. He teaches the young carvers that carving a pole requires more than time and labour, more than a firm understanding of the tools and techniques and more than artistic and emotional commitment. The process involves respecting and following tradition and becoming involved in their cultural background.
Totem poles, drums, rattles, boxes and canoes join the many masks displayed in over 400 beautiful photographs.
Master carvers as well as emerging artists are featured in this text which guides readers to better understand the complex societies of the Northwest Coast First Nations peoples and the changing art styles.
Northwest Coast native oral narrative is recorded in these nine stories told by Gandl, a blind Haida elder, to John R Swanton, a anthropological field worker in 1900.
Bringhurst has brought these stories back to life through his dedication to ethnographic, linguistic and cultural anthropological research. Footnotes and photographs identify the places, foods and material culture and provide a further depth to appreciating the cultural heritage of the Haida.
Coast Salish oral traditions, history and artistry from prehistory to the present is captured in this visually stunning book.
A principle at the heart of Salish culture is reciprical exchange of physical, spiritual and intangible gifts, including songs, spirit powers, titles, names, food, natural resources and artistic creations. The term for “gifts” in Lushootseed, a Coast Salish dialect, is S'abadeb and this book illuminates the concept by exploring the intersection of art with ceremony, oral traditions, the land, and contemporary realities.
By: Aldona Jonaitis, director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North and professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
An extensive overview of the First Nations art of the Northwest Coast with detailed illustrations and up-to-date maps. This single volume book covers the development of styles by region as well as the art's meanings in the context of the region's social history.
Pubished in 2006
A collection of 36 Tsimshian masterpieces from northern British Columbia, collected over 140 years ago.
Edited by Donald Ellis, with essays by Steven Clay Brown, Bill Holm, Alan L. Hoover, Sarah Milroy, and William White.
Tsimshian Treasures is an extraordinary collection of masterpieces from the Dundas collection that were aquired by Reverend Robert J. Dundas in October 1963 from Natives at Old Metlakatla. The images and essays in this book honour a remarkable moment in Canadian cultural history and the triumphant return of these masterworks of Northwest Coast art after more than a century in exile.
Ulli Steltzer's photographs, taken over five years, record the genesis and development of the Black Canoe and of each creature within it. The images offer insight into the sculpture's final form and reveals many aspects of the work otherwise lost forever to view.
An important contribution to the fields of art and anthropology, Holm's work is a genuinely analytical study of the basic elements of form which characterizes a particular aboriginal art style.
Published: 50th Anniversary Edition, 2015
The Collections of the Ethnological Museum Berlin.
The North American collection in the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin ranks among the most important in Europe. Different Native American cultures of the United States and Canada are represented here as well as the peoples of the Arctic.
This seminal work focuses on Canada’s premier collection of Heiltsuk art, the R.W. Large Collection in the Royal Ontario Museum, illuminating its early twentieth-century origins and the continuity and power of Heiltsuk cultural expression.
Published in 1997
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