Raven Travelling- two centuries of Haida art

  • Sep. 16, 2005 8:00 p.m.

Submitted by Vince Collison–“Our culture, our heritage is the child of respect and intimacy with the land and sea. Like the forest, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us. We owe our existence to the land on these islands our ancestors lived and died, and here too we will make our homes until called away to join them in the great beyond. The living generation accepts the responsibility to insure our heritage is passed on the generations following” ~ Chief Skidegate.

Whenever I read this statement I am in inspired awe of the wise foresight and intimate sensibility of our Haida ancestors! Further it has been my great privilege working with our elders (and elders in training for that matter!) over the years and I am as inspired and humbled by them to carry on this great legacy that has been passed on to us. This practical sense is shared by many First Nation cultures across North America. As one of the living descendents of the Haida nation I take these words and sentiments to heart and do my utmost to represent the Haida well in my association and work we do with the museums that hold Haida collections.
With the support from the Council of the Haida Nation, the Vancouver Art Gallery is requesting a number of seminal Haida treasures from museums across North America that hold extensive, important collections of Haida treasures. Here is a brief overview of the “Raven Travelling – Two Centuries of Haida Art” exhibition.
Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art
The major Haida exhibition to be produced is called Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art. The exhibition will open in June and will run to the end of September 2006. Haida art has produced set a most excellent standard within Northwest Coast traditional arts. No major retrospective exhibition has ever been organized before. This major retrospective of Haida art is long overdue and it will be the key summer exhibition during the Vancouver Art Gallery’s 75th anniversary celebrations. The exhibition will reveal the relationship of Haida narrative in the work, as well as the importance of the land and waters in Haida cultural expression. The exhibition will include up to 250 artworks and will include such luminaries as Charles Edenshaw, John Cross, Simeon Stihlda, and many other great 19th century Haida artists who mastered their forms in argillite, silver, gold, bark and wood. It will also trace the evolvement of the traditional Haida art form by Bill Reid, and will explore further directions of contemporary artists such as Robert Davidson, Jim Hart, Reg Davidson, Don Yeomans, Freida Deising, Isabel Rorick and others.
I am working here in Vancouver on a grant from the Canada Council and will be here for 14 months. I am very excited about this great opportunity and look forward to the many challenges and milestones we will achieve as we prepare for this unique exhibition. I would like to see as many Haidas involved with this exhibition as possible and am working to find further funding for this aspect of the exhibition. I just completed writing an grant application to the City of Vancouver to fund some young hip-hop artists, young artists and writers for the public programming for Raven Travelling. Cross your fingers! Hopefully we will hear about this very soon. If you all have any ideas to assist with getting Haidas from Haida Gwaii to here please email me at vcollison@vanartgallery.bc.ca or call me at 1.604.662.4700 x. 209.
To date, the request letters to museums have all been sent and we anxiously await their responses so we can begin to shape and plan the exhibition space. The exhibition will be on the first floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery. These are the initial themes we are working with and as with everything will change as we continue to plan and shape out the space for Raven Travelling Two Centuries of Haida Art. The themes are Art For Trade, Art of the Clan, Form and Antiquity, Master Artisans, New Directions, & Raven Travelling.
Rotunda – In the ideal world we are hoping to get three poles from three centuries for the Rotunda area.
We have been working with a number of Haidas on the home front with this and they need to be acknowledged. xaaw7’a to Lucille Bell, Nika Collison and Irene Mills for their great assistance to date. xaww7’a to the Council of the Haida Nation, Old Massett Village Council, Skidegate Band Council for their great support. xaaw7’a to Jeff King and the Observer for allowing me this space to update you all on this exciting developments of this exhibition. My next submission will be the end of December. Until then, I look forward to seeing you all here next year for the opening of “Raven Travelling – Two Centuries of Haida Art”!