– Indigenous art is not only unique and beautiful, but it is also functional, at least historically. Without written language, Indigenous peoples have made art to convey their history and stories to future generations.
But now that we have other modes of communication, how has Nuu-chah-nulth art evolved? What is its purpose, moving forward? How will future generations learn ancient techniques and the history behind artistic patterns and pieces?
Huu-ay-aht First Nation is hosting a Nuu-chah-nulth Artist Symposium in Port Alberni. The purpose of the symposium is to open dialogue among Nuu-chah-nulth artists around the history and evolution of their work. They will also talk about Indigenous art and how to protect its authenticity.
“When our traditions and languages were taken from us, art played a very important role in preserving and transmitting culture for generations. Master carvers, weavers, painters, singers, and dancers were storytellers who carried on our languages and culture with their hands and feet,” said Edward R. Johnson in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa.
Chief John Jack said he hopes that the symposium will allow artists to discuss ways to preserve the authenticity of their work, and to protect their intellectual property. “You see it on Orange Shirt Day, for example,” said Jack. Non-Indigenous people are everywhere, selling shirts emblazoned with designs that are not authentic Indigenous art.
“How do we preserve that authenticity of Nuu-chah-nulth art in all forms,” Jack asked.
Nuu-chah-nulth-aht, he added, are known for their intellectual property. The Ha’wiih have their history preserved on ceremonial curtains. They own songs and dances, and individual families have their own songs, art, and stories. How do we protect that intellectual property, Jack wondered.
On September 13, 2023, all Nuu-chah-nulth-aht are invited to join the artists. They will meet Nuu-chah-nulth master artists at work as they demonstrate their techniques. Guests are invited to observe the artists during their panel discussion.
Vendors will be on site, selling their art to the public.
“We’re not sure we will solve it, but we will help to organize an approach to it,” said Jack.
Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the symposium begins at 9:00 a.m. at the Best Western Barclay Hotel at 4277 Stamp Avenue.