Contemporary canoe: Hupacasath artist Rodney Sayers’ work on exhibit at Vancouver Island University

Nanaimo, BC

Vancouver Island University is featuring the works of Hupacasath artist Rodney Sayers in their VIU Faculty Exhibition. The exhibit features a Nuu-chah-nulth-style ocean-going canoe with a modern twist.

“Many years ago, I began gazing at the Nuu-chah-nulth canoes, studying them as sculptural forms. I became fascinated with how they could be so elegant to move through the water so seemingly effortlessly, yet be so incredibly strong and seaworthy,” Sayers wrote.

Also interested in conservation, Sayers paid homage to the traditional dugout canoe by making one in the same style by using a different method and different materials.

Xwa xwašqi čiƛuusaḥ is my homage to the Nuu-chah-nulth pinwaał (ocean-going canoe),” continued Sayers. “It also embodies different facets of my work that address the evolution of traditional materials, sustainability, popular culture, and hot rodding.”

While Sayers was growing up, hotrod cars were popular among young adults.

“The high metallic finish, the painted flames, they were beautiful objects,” he added.

The strikingly beautiful canoe is made of western red cedar, yew wood, yellow cedar, maple, fiberglass cloth, epoxy resin, brass, stainless steel and automotive paint.

There is very little cedar in the canoe and it is not a dugout, nor is it carved, but it is made with a wood strip method. Sayers has a friend that does custom car painting and so the canoe was finished with autobody paint.

“I hope that this object gives you reason to pause and to contemplate that the art of the Nuu-chah-nulth people is alive and well and adapting and it is a living history,” Sayers said.

Rodney Sayers teaches an Indigenous Art History course at VIU and is considered faculty there. He was invited to participate in VIU̓’s biannual faculty exhibition, according to Chai Duncan, VIEW Gallery curator at Vancouver Island University.

“The work he offered to bring, the cedar strip canoe fashioned after the Nuu-chah-nulth ocean-going whaling canoe, is a stunning work of art and an amazing feat of craftsmanship,” Duncan wrote in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa.

Xwa xwašqi Čiƛuusaḥ is the name of the canoe and translates to ‘I might turn into a blue jay’. Sayers says the name came from a Hupacasath language group he attends and is an inside joke.

The F23N14 is VIU’s biennial faculty exhibition and features the works of more than a dozen faculty members including Sayers and Chai Duncan.

The exhibition runs from September 5 to October 6 at The View Gallery at 900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo, BC.

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