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Eagle, Killerwhale, Chief with Copper, Bear with Salmon
64 x 26 x 12"
Coast Salish (Tsawout) Nation
Coast Salish (Tsawout) Nation
Tom LaFortune is a member of the Tsawout First Nation whose ancestral connections reside in the southern part of what is now known as Vancouver Island. Tom completed his first carving when he was just 11 years old, and has advanced to carving masks, rattles, paddles, dishes, talking sticks, single figures and totem poles. He has also made and painted drums. Tom’s work is often distinguished by its stylistic fluidity and refined use of color.
Tom LaFortune’s works can be found in collections worldwide; most notably his totem poles. These include Harvest Time and Owl Spirit poles completed for Duncan’s City of Totem project, a commission by CBC which was featured on television coverage of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, a single owl figure overlooking the Ross Fountain at the world famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, S’ael, a twenty-five foot pole completed as part of Royal Roads University’s 75 years of changing lives celebrations, and a Salish arch for the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site.
Tom lives with his partner, Doreen, in the Victoria area, close to his two sons and daughter and a large extended family.
Spoons and ladles were traditionally made from either cedar wood or the horn of a mountain sheep, and their handles were carved with family crest images. Historically, these exquisitely sculptured objects were primarily created by people in Northern Nations, and were highly sought after by other nations. During potlatches [festive gatherings], cedar ladles decorated with the hosting family’s crests were used to serve food, while the elaborately carved mountain sheep spoons were distributed as gifts among the many guests.
Today, spoon and ladle productions are based on these traditional objects and are meant to be both objects of function and display. In addition to traditional mediums such as cedar wood, goat or mountain sheep horn, many modern-day spoons and ladles are constructed of gold, silver and pewter.
“People of the Eagle” Frontlet, masterfully carved and painted by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Barry Scow, represents the Chief and his people of the Eagle clan. True to form of Barry’s fine carving, this frontlet portrays the Eagle with Sun, and commemorates Barry’s link to his Grandfather, who was a Chief, and to his heritage.
A Frontlet is a forehead mask attached to a woven headpiece, worn only by Chiefs and high-ranking individuals in order to display status. This particular frontlet carries the Eagle and Sun motif. The Eagle position belonged to the highest-ranking Chief in the village.
The Eagle lives in the sky, or Upper World, and represents status, power, peace and friendship. Eagle is the Chief of the birds, an honor he shares with the Woodpecker. The Sun is a popular Kwakwaka’wakw motif, used quite regularly in their art. The sun can represent life and creative forces as well as warmth and healing.
To further establish his high position, the Chief practiced a traditional act of discarding his wealth in front of other Chiefs. Much of this wealth was in the form of copper. To break the copper or throw it into the ocean, symbolized that he and his clan were modest of their wealth and that the value of friendship weighed more than the value of material wealth.
To assist the Chief with this historical display of modesty, a subordinate was appointed. The assistant is portrayed below the beak of the Eagle, carved in intricate detail, as one can see in the teeth and tongue of the human face. Another beautiful component of this piece are the Chief’s people, delicately cradled in the beak of the Eagle.
The drum is considered one of the main percussive instruments, along with the rattle, which was used in traditional Northwest Coast ceremonies and cultural events. Its beat provides the basis from which dances, songs and oral histories are performed during a Potlatch.
The Thunderbird is a supernatural, mythical creature that lives high in the mountains and feeds on Killerwhale. It’s been aptly named for the thunder that rolls off its wings and lightening comes from its eyes when it flies.
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