Haida Hip Hop Art Exhibit Opening in Vancouver

Photo sourced from Native Northwest

Photo sourced from Native Northwest

Chances are you’ve never seen First Nations art quite like this.

The monumental works of Haida spray-can artist Corey Bulpitt are coming to downtown Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery.  The Akos exhibition, which opens June 5, shows the natural fusion between hip hop culture (in particular, street art and graffiti) and traditional Haida culture.

Bulpitt is a member of the Naikun River clan of the Haida nation, but he grew up in the Vancouver area.  After graduating from the Langley Fine Arts School, he returned to Haida Gwaii in northwestern B.C. to apprentice with traditional carvers.  Bulpitt’s masterful carvings – including a 20-foot cedar totem poll for Scouts Canada – can be seen across the province.

But it’s his affiliation with the Beat Nation movement – an artist community that seeks to merge hip hop and Aboriginal culture – that has brought him the most attention.  

Photo sourced from Indian Country Today Media Network

Photo sourced from Indian Country Today Media Network

As the group’s provocative mission statement explains, “[in] many ways, the greatest achievement of Haida master carver Bill Reid was in taking the carving tradition from wood, silver and argillite into other sculptural media. The artists in Beat Nation do the same thing in their media of spray paint, live mix video, turntables, and beat boxes.”

Bulpitt’s hip hop-Haida art has been showcased in the wildly successful traveling exhibition titled Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture.  The exhibit, which first showed at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2012, includes everything from graffiti murals with Haida figures to sculptures carved out of skateboard decks, abstract paintings with form-line design, live video remixes with Hollywood films and hip hop performances in Aboriginal languages.  At it’s heart is a desire to harness hip hop as a force for community activism.  

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Photo sourced from moa.ubc.ca

The Akos exhibition, showing the spray-can art of Haida artist Corey Bulpitt, runs June 5-Sept. 14 at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, 639 Hornby St.

What do you think about the fusion of hip hip and First Nations culture? Weigh in below. 

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 There is a strong sense of activism present in the work and recognition of the responsibility the artists hold towards their communities.

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