The Museum of Vancouver Showcases More than 450 Haida Works in a New Groundbreaking Exhibition

Raven grease bowl Haida (?); Early 1800s
Wood, paint; AA 2400

The history of the Haida people has been one of proud tradition, community, resilience, and change.

The Museum of Vancouver (MOV), which has been doing particularly innovative exhibition work, has just launched an exciting new exhibition that looks at the impressive skill and cultural significance of Haida art.

Photo Credit: Tara Lee

From now until June 15, 2019, Haida Now will be running at the MOV (1100 Chestnut Street). The exhibition features over 450 Haida works by a wide variety of artists, such as carvers, weavers, artisan carpenters, jewellers, printmakers, and photographers.

Photo Credit: Tara Lee

This bringing together of these works is particularly ground-breaking due to the collaborative curatorial process. Guest Haida curator Kwiaahwah Jones worked in collaboration with Viviane Gosselin, director of Collections & Exhibitions at MOV. Local Haida artists and scholars also aided in the selection and documentation of the various pieces to be exhibited from the MOV vaults.

Niijang.uu, Woven Mask; Grace Wilson (-1993), Dugwaa St’langng Laanas, Haida, 1977, Cedar bark, AA 2738; Photo Credit: Tara Lee

The intent of the exhibition is captured in its title, Haida Now, which attests to the co-curators’ desire to show the vibrancy and continued relevance of Haida artistry. Some of the works are a few thousand years old, while others are contemporary pieces by well-known Haida artists.

Susan Sturgis compass base carving; Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920), ‘Idansuu, Haida, Massett, Late 1800s, Mahogany wood, abalone shell, AA888; Photo Credit: Tara Lee

The exhibition is organized thematically around the museum space, highlighting key aspects of Haida life past and present, including “Travel and Trade,” “War,” “To Weave,” and “Tools.” In display cases are a range of items, such as intricately carved silver bracelets, tightly patterned woven baskets, wood boxes, and carved argillite pipes. There are also works by iconic artists like Bill Reid and Robert Davidson, as well as short films, photography projects, and even a basketball from the World Indigenous Basketball Challenge, created by the Skidegate Saints.

Wasco with Three Fishermen, Xigyah, bracelet, Jesse Brillon (1972-), Skil Xaaw, Haida, 2015, Repousse silver, On loan, courtesy of the artist; Photo Credit: Tara Lee

Also featured is a time-line of Haida life that includes government legislation that, for example, banned the potlatch and refused to grant Haida full voting citizenship within Canada. Contrasted against this harshly restrictive policy is the exhibition’s celebration of the richness of Haida culture and its creations. Storytelling figures strongly in the exhibition (eg the story of Twin Sisters), as does the significance of the potlatch and continued efforts at community building (eg the Council of the Haida Nation).

A variety of tools on display; Photo Credit: Tara Lee

The Haida people’s evolving and collaborative relationship with the Coast Salish peoples is also recognized, due to one fifth of the Haida population now residing on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Skwxwú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh.

Photo Credit: Tara Lee

Visitors are invited to view, appreciate, and learn from a collection that has only been partially shown in the last eight decades, as well as participate in its interactive components (“What does Reconciliation mean to you?”). There will also be many public programs offered to talk about the exhibition, as well as facilitate a conversation about the reconciliation movement and the roles of Canadians and museums in this process.

Further information can be found on-line.

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